Lawmakers taking stock in safety

January 10, 2011 8:48:30 PM PST
Lawmakers around the country and in North Carolina are taking stock of their own personal safety in an increasingly charged political environment.U.S. Congressman Brad Miller, from North Carolina's 13th District, says receiving menacing letters aren't uncommon.

"I hope someone steps up and takes you and your liberal family out before you can do any more harm," Miller said one of the letters stated.

Miller says in the last year and a half, he's gotten a half dozen letters wishing him dead.

"Physically intimidating, threatening, and certainly hateful and just filled with rage and I've said for a year and a half I was worried that it would result in violence," he said.

Violence broke out in Arizona over the weekend when a suspected lone-shooter opened fire at a supermarket, targeting and critically injuring Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Six people died and 13 others were wounded.

"I think it's a very sad thing that happened in Arizona, but I don't know if it's isolated," said Rep. Deborah Ross from NC District 38.

Ross says state legislators get threats as well.

"I'm hoping that this is a wakeup call and helps our civility," she said.

Governor Bev Perdue always has security close by, though one source tells ABC11 no serious threats have been made in a few months.

Something 13th District Director Pam Kohl says she can't say the same for.

"There are definitely days and weeks where the entire staff feels like were in the trenches so to speak," she said.

Former FBI agent Frank Perry says while all threats are taken seriously, there may be a change in how they're responded to.

"More of a complete follow up in trying to contact individuals, interview them, if there's insufficient reason to arrest them and try to neutralize the threat," Perry said.

The way it works now, that doesn't always happen. Congressman Miller says if there's no direct threat like "I will do this," the sender can't be prosecuted and often that's where it ends.

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