MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama citizens may no longer be able to walk into a lawmaker’s office without an appointment to say what’s on their minds, with states across the U.S. examining security issues after an Arizona congresswoman was gravely wounded during an ambush at a meet-and-greet.

Legislative leaders in Alabama are working on a plan to close hallways leading to legislators’ offices and require an appointment to enter on days when the Legislature is meeting.

“After Tucson and that situation, we have a legitimate reason to look at the safety of our members,” Republican House Speaker Mike Hubbard said.

Alabama is one of several states looking at changing security measures in government buildings following the Arizona ambush on Jan. 8. A gunman opened fired with a semiautomatic pistol at a public gathering, wounding 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and killing six others, including a federal judge.

Kae Warnock, policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures, said each violent incident like the Arizona shootings prompts state legislatures to review safety measures.

“Everyone stops and takes a look to see where they are and tweak it,” she said.

A legislative committee in Maine is reviewing security measures, while South Carolina has set up more public patrols for events involving lawmakers or the governor.

In Hawaii, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Clayton Hee said the Arizona shootings prompted extra security at an emotional hearing on a bill to permit civil unions.

Meanwhile, Minnesota officials are taking a look at Capitol security.

“A violent act of extremism — whether it’s politically motivated or not — is something we will guard against with every reasonable precaution while at the same time recognizing that it’s imperative that the public have free access to proceedings,” Gov. Mark Dayton said.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Alabama is one of 26 states that routinely require visitors to their legislative buildings to pass through metal detectors to keep out guns and knives. Most other legislatures have metal detectors they can use if security concerns arise or if big crowds are expected.

But once in the buildings, access to legislators’ offices is usually not limited, Warnock said. If it is limited, it’s usually because the offices can only be accessed from the legislative chambers, and the public is not allowed to walk through the chambers when the legislatures are in session.

In Alabama, legislators’ offices are on the opposite side of the Statehouse from the House and Senate chambers.

Hubbard, R-Auburn, and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said hundreds of lobbyists crowd the legislative hallways in addition to ordinary citizens.

“It would be more orderly if they were to come and ask for an appointment and be allowed to come to the back to see either myself or any of the other senators or House members,” Marsh said.

But Marsh said leaders will let the full Legislature decide whether to move ahead with the plan.

They would be instituting a process that has been used for access to the governor’s office for 20 years, but it has drawn criticism from regular Statehouse visitors.

“The fact that the tragedy in Tucson is now being used as a justification for diminishing access of the people to their representatives is neither prudent or necessary,” said Randy Brinson, president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama.

Brinson said the attack in Tucson was in an open setting at a grocery store, but the Statehouse has security guards and metal detectors at the entrances and security cameras on every floor.

Paul Hubbert, executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association, has walked the halls of the Legislature for 42 years and doesn’t like being told drop-by visits are out.

“It doesn’t sound like there is going to be much transparency. It appears to me this is closing government down,” he said.


Associated Press writers Martiga Lohn in St. Paul, Minn., Mark Niesse in Honolulu and Jim Davenport in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.

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