Batter Up!

No, this isn’t about baseball.

Last week the House Republican softball team held its first practice. Last year, you may recall, a guy with a beef and a gun visited that practice and nearly killed one House member, so this year House Republicans have beefed up their team.

Their security team.

The online publication Roll Call explains.

At practices in years past, media were allowed to roam the dugout, field and all surrounding areas. Alexandrians strolled by with their dogs on leashes. Joggers jogged.

No longer.

This year, the team’s organizers are requesting that cameras and trucks be staged in place by 5:45 a.m. for a security sweep. Reporters will be huddled along the third base line.

In previous years’ practices, there were no media sweeps. Most mornings, the only media presence — if there even was one — was a lone Roll Call reporter.

Why all the security?

“I think it totally was a wake-up call,” [Texas Rep. Roger] Williams said Tuesday. “If you have that many congresspeople, you need security.”

The beefed-up security at the first practice Wednesday won’t be a one-off procedure, Williams indicated. He said he was confident the Capitol Police would protect members throughout the spring as they practice three times a week until the annual game scheduled for June 14 at Nationals Park.

Two members of Congress who are very comfortable standing by and watching the bloodshed caused by easy access to guns

And this isn’t the only additional security to which House members are treating themselves.

Last June, lawmakers took immediate steps to address pre-existing security concerns that the shooting exacerbated. Many members of Congress had said for months before the shooting that they felt threatened by protesters at events in their districts. Some avoided in-person town halls altogether.

Less than two weeks after the baseball shooting, the House Administration Committee increased the Members’ Representational Allowances fund by $25,000 per member for a roughly three-month period until the end of fiscal 2017. The extra money was intended for lawmakers to use on security for their homes and at events in their districts.

Lawmakers increased the House’s operations budget — which includes the MRA fund that covers district security — by $11 million in the legislative branch appropriations bill signed in March.

So why all the fuss? One House member explained.

“It is unfortunate that the current political climate in America has created the need for enhanced security,” GOP Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia said. “As someone who was on the baseball field that day and shot at several times, I completely understand the need for security at events where members of Congress congregate.”

Rep. Loudermilk is being both disingenuous and ridiculous: he knows, you know, we all know that what creates the need for enhanced security is how easy it is for any wing-nut with a beef, either real or imagined, to get his hands on a gun – and on an automatic weapon, if he so desires. Republican members of Congress are taking advantage of their privileged position to give themselves an extra helping of security in the face of the everyday danger posed by easy access to guns that they consistently and systematically deny the rest of us.

What about YOU? What about YOUR softball game, YOUR walk along Main Street, YOUR picnic in the park, YOUR visit to the mall? Where’s YOUR extra protection? Why don’t YOU get the same level of security as the person you sent to Washington to look out for your interests?

The only way members of Congress are ever going to do something about easy access to guns is if they feel the same everyday vulnerability to gun violence as the rest of us. That’s never, ever going to happen, though, as long as they continue to dip into the public till and wrap themselves in a cocoon of armed guards and special protection.

But in this case privilege gets what privilege wants and that’s apparently not going to change in the foreseeable future because Congress appears intent on spending our money to buy itself extra protection from the threat of gun violence while leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves.

And in so doing they’re telling us now, as they’ve told us so many times before, how little they care about the people they were sent to Washington to serve.



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