Texoma Lawmakers Shaken after Tragedy in Tucson

The Tragedy in Tucson, where 6 people were killed and 14 others wounded when a gunman opened fire at a political event, can be a harsh awakening of how accessible our elected officials are.

Politicians have told Newschannel 6 the shooting has heightened their sense of surroundings.

"It makes you very aware that there are people out there that get ideas out in their head and want to harm you. So it does raise the level of awareness," says Barry Mahler, the Wichita County Commissioner for Precinct 3.

Dan Stanley, a Texoma resident is also shaken. "I don't know how we can protect ourselves in this society," he says.

"It makes me feel sad that these incident happened because that's not part of what democracy is about," says Pat Norris, the Wichita County Commissioner for Precinct 2.

Politicians and citizens are shocked and disturbed over the Tragedy in Tucson. Stanley says that he has been glued to the coverage of the mass shooting and he fears for the safety of our elected officials in Texoma.

"They are always at risk, they are always speaking publicly in open crowds, so it is extremely difficult to protect," says Stanley.

Yet according to Wichita County Commissioners, being in public is just part of the job, no matter the risk.

"Out there, I feel like that's our job to get out and to meet and to greet and be part of the public that we serve. Otherwise we would not be as familiar with the issues or their concerns," says Commissioner Norriss.

Belvard Burns lives in Wichita Falls and is still worried about the problem. "They are not protected," he says.

However Commissioner Mahler is confident with security at the Wichita County Courthouse, where Commissioners Court meets for their weekly meetings.

"We have a pretty good level of security here at the courthouse and we feel pretty secure in our local communities," explains the Commissioner.

However Courthouse Security may not be as strong. Sheriff David Duke says the equipment is around 25 years old. Even deputies working the entrance say that old equipment glitch on Monday, and they had to screen everyone coming inside the courthouse by hand. The Sheriff says that no matter the technology, law enforcement is prepared to act on any terrorist situation and will gladly protect those lawmakers who ask for it.

"If we thought there was an incident or if there had been some threats, I'm certain that most of us then would go and seek out some professional help or some help from the law enforcement," says Commissioner Norriss. "But so far, that's not been the case," she says with a smile.

No matter the security, the possibility of an attack, will always be in the back of the minds of those elected to serve.

"I'm sure in all possibility, a thing like that could happen anywhere," says Norriss.

The Wichita Falls Police Department and the Wichita County Sheriff's Office have given executive security to visiting dignitaries in the past. As far as the danger is concerned, Officer Harold McClure with the Wichita Falls Police says, every officer who is on the force knows and understands the risks.

Mary Moloney, Newschannel 6