DC lawmakers carrying guns after being robbed at gunpoint
In the weeks after state Rep. Jaret Gibbons and two aides were robbed last month in Harrisburg, local legislators have heightened safety concerns in the state capital, and the incident convinced one House member to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
"It was kind of the final straw as for me going and getting a permit," said Jim Christiana, R-15, Beaver, who applied for a permit a few weeks after Gibbons was robbed and has since received it.
"It really opened a lot of eyes," Christiana said of the robbery March 12 in an alley about a block from the Capitol. "(Harrisburg) has really changed for the worse."
Increasing crime has been a growing issue in the state capital, legislators said. Several hours after Gibbons was robbed on March 12, a cab driver in Harrisburg was shot and killed, and other incidents that weekend prompted city officials to have a press conference.
Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson recently said the city plans to install cameras as a security measure.
Gibbons, D-10, Franklin Township; his chief-of-staff, Kevin Bowser of Ellwood City; and Slippery Rock University intern Charles Goodell were in the alley outside Gibbons' shared apartment around 1 a.m. when two men approached and one pulled a gun.
The gunman put the weapon to Bowser's head and ordered everyone to the ground. After taking cash, wallets, cell phones and car keys, the suspects fled in Bowser's car, but Gibbons called police and the two men were quickly caught by Harrisburg police.
Police have charged Donnie Dozier, 41, and Michael Chavis, 23, both of Harrisburg, in the case.
Gibbons said he might apply for a concealed carry permit, and his mother offered to give him his grandfather's small pistol. "I've not decided to go that far yet," he said.
If he is walking from the Capitol to his apartment, Gibbons said, he has started to ask House security to accompany him. Gibbons said he has no plans to change his Harrisburg address.
"I like the convenience of being so close to the Capitol," he said, adding that he's "just not a hotel person" and likes having an apartment where he can leave his clothes and belongings when he returns home to his wife and two children in Franklin.
Besides knowing Gibbons, Christiana said the robbery shocked him because he walks past Gibbons' apartment to get to his Harrisburg home. The circumstances of the robbery, with a gun pointed to Bowser's head, also stunned legislators, Christiana said.
"It definitely got the attention of many, many people in Harrisburg," he said.
Some other legislators simply drive across the Susquehanna River to hotels that are only a few miles from the Capitol but far removed from the questionable safety of downtown Harrisburg.
State Rep. Jim Marshall, R-14, Big Beaver; state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-16, Ambridge; state Rep. Jesse White, D-46, Cecil Township; and state Sen. Elder Vogel Jr., R-47, New Sewickley Township all said they avoid problems by staying in hotels on the other side of the river.
Marshall, who does not have a concealed carry permit, said safety concerns have even cut into after-work meals and the sacrosanct Harrisburg tradition of wining and dining politicians.
"There's less and less of that," he said. "People are actually saying, 'I don't feel comfortable downtown.'"
Those legislators who stay in hotels said it's simply easier to avoid potential threatening situations by not going downtown, especially late at night. "It's easier for me just to avoid trouble," said White, who owns a gun but does not have a concealed carry permit.
Of Harrisburg, White said: "It's a city. It's a city that has clear financial problems, and that has clearly translated into its inability to protect people."
Matzie said he has a concealed carry permit, but he would not divulge whether he carries a weapon. Prior to getting elected in November 2008, Matzie was a longtime aide to former state Sen. Gerald LaValle, so he has been familiar with Harrisburg for years.
There is "no question" that safety in Harrisburg has declined as the city's financial situation has worsened and the police presence has diminished, Matzie said.
Gibbons said he is definitely more aware of his surroundings -- even during the day -- and of anyone who looks suspicious who might be walking near him. "I shy away," he said. "I'll be honest with you, some of it is just fear."
Marshall said concerns about crime aren't limited to legislators from safer or less urban areas of the state. Harrisburg, he said, "has changed for the worse, and I think it's obvious to all the members."
With his new permit in hand, Christiana said he will join a gun club to take regular target practice. "Unfortunate situations can arise anywhere," he said, "but the odds are definitely much higher in Harrisburg than Beaver."
Re: DC lawmakers carrying guns after being robbed at gunpoint
the Uk has 1.6 Million camera's , to date it has not prevented a crime though it has allowed police to watch many many murders and robberies and similar ,
nice to know that when your robbed there'll be a witness who'll see it and then say they could not ID then attacker as all arabs look the same .. or there where 20 of them and they all wore hoodies and so the video is useless ..
camera's do NOT protect anything ....
but they will allow a tax investigation to note every take away you visit over a year ( a friend in the Uk was a victim of ID theft and when charged with some stuff they pulled video survelance tapes for a year of him buying takeaway before clearing him of the other stuff )