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The Statesman - Time is Right for Metal Detectors at Texas Capitol

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In a 5-1 vote, reason prevailed over Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday when the State Preservation Board, chaired by the governor, decided it is time to utilize metal detectors and X-ray equipment at the entrances to the Texas Capitol.

"I hate to see this," Lt. Gov. David 
Dewhurst said prior to voting for the plan, adding, however, "I don't want it on my conscience that some innocent person visiting the Capitol got hurt by a nut."

Dewhurst; House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio; Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands; Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth; and public member Charlotte Foster voted for the new security plan.

Foster had voted with Perry on the governor's unsuccessful effort to amend the plan to delete the equipment.

The review of Capitol security was sparked by a January shooting incident outside the building. Fausto Cardenas, who fired at least five shots but injured nobody, has been charged in connection with the shooting, which occurred after he had been in Houston Sen. Dan Patrick's Capitol office.

Perry wants the Capitol to remain one of the few high-profile government buildings that does not screen entrants. During the meeting, he complained that access would be "substantially restricted" if visitors were required to pass through electronic screening.

"I have been into enough airports in the last few years and seen the discombobulation that occurs with all of these metal detectors and X-ray machines when technology breaks down (and there are) huge lines," Perry said after he was out-voted. "I think we have the ability to protect the public without metal detectors and the other devices they are talking about putting in place where it causes people to line up."

Maybe, but it's a confidence that carries too high a price if misplaced. We prefer Dewhurst's approach, which was recommended by the Secret Service.

"The state Capitol is the symbol of Texas, and so I think we need to protect the building," Dewhurst said. "But more importantly, we need to protect all the people who come here and visit the state Capitol."

An inconvenience? Yes. Potentially annoying? Probably, but sometimes the right thing can be inconvenient and annoying. Protecting public safety is always the right thing.

And on that front, we are disappointed that Perry and Dewhurst are against barring holders of concealed handgun licenses from bringing those weapons into the Capitol. We see no reason anyone other than the trained professionals on duty in the building would need a gun.

The Preservation Board -- in this case including Perry -- deserves a pat on the back for voting Tuesday to advance two scaled-down proposals for expanding the Governor's Mansion, which is en route to a massive rehabilitation project in the wake of the 2008 fire that caused extensive damage.

The proposals now go to the Texas Historical Commission for possible action. One calls for an additional 700 square feet; the other would add about 1,500 square feet. Both are preferable to the previous proposal -- decried by preservationists and former governors -- to add 3,000 square feet.


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