Despite a massacre Saturday in Arizona that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head, San Mateo County's two congresswomen do not plan to scale back their public appearances or ask for tighter security.
Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, said she has long thought rank-and-file members of Congress are "sitting ducks," since they typically are not provided with armed protection. Still, it's incumbent upon federal legislators, particularly members of the House of Representatives, to get out and meet with constituents, she said.
"We always say that the House of Representatives is the house of the people and, contrary to what many people think, we stay pretty close to our constituents," said Eshoo, who commutes home to Menlo Park from Washington most weekends. "It goes right to the heart of our democracy."
Nonetheless, Eshoo said she was shocked and deeply unsettled by the shooting, which left six people dead after a gunman who apparently targeted Giffords opened fire at a meeting the congresswoman hosted at a Safeway in Tucson.
"I think it's an 'Oh, My God' moment," she said. "You have a rush of emotions."
The U.S. Capitol Police is in charge of security for members of Congress. But while leaders in the Senate and House are protected by a security detail, most legislators do not get that treatment, Eshoo said.
Sgt. Kimberly Schneider of the Capitol Police declined to discuss specific
"We will travel occasionally outside Washington if we have a security detail, because that's within our scope and our authority," she added.
Schneider said Capitol Police are participating in the investigation of Saturday's shooting and the agency frequently reviews and updates its security procedures when incidents occur. The agency is advising members of Congress and their staffers to be aware of their surroundings and take reasonable precautions for their safety.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, was shot five times in 1978 during a fact-finding mission to the Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guyana, while working as an aide to Rep. Leo Ryan, who was killed in the attack.
Though some members of Congress have reacted to Saturday's shooting by calling for changes in how they are protected, Speier said she will not seek added security for herself or her colleagues. And it will not compel her go out in public or hold town-hall meetings less frequently than she has, she said.
"I think, in the end, it was an isolated incident," she said. "As a general rule, I will still conduct myself the same way I always have."
Eshoo's office has received threats over the years -- during the fierce debate on health care reform in 2009 and 2010, for instance -- and forwarded them to the Capitol Police. Still, she said people in the 14th Congressional District understand that "no matter how strong our passions, shooting a gun doesn't settle it."
"I've never operated out of fear," she added. "And I'm not going to begin to now."