This summer, statehouse discussions have resumed on plans to enhance security at the state Capitol. One idea would use the nearby Transportation Department building as a screening site for visitors to enter the statehouse through a tunnel.
It's the latest in a checkered history of efforts to address Capitol security I've seen over the decades.
The first I saw was a video camera installed into a wall just outside the entrance to the Capitol basement garage.
The purpose was to have a video record of anyone leaving the Capitol if a crime had been committed.
But the camera did not last.
I was told that some legislators did not want the administration to have pictures of their late-night departures from the statehouse with females who were not their wives.
Later, Capitol Police were allowed to carry firearms in the building.
That too went away, for a while. Only recently I was told that some public officials had gotten upset when police shot a varmint pestering the Capitol grounds -- a skunk, if I remember the story correctly.
Wiser heads later prevailed and Capitol Police now are re-armed.
The 1995 bombing of the federal government building in Oklahoma City led to calls from public safety officials to restrict Capitol access.
But Gov. Mel Carnahan rejected some of the more disruptive ideas. Carnahan said he sought a balance between security and preserving ease of access by the public to the seat of their government.
He voiced frustrations to me that if he rejected even the most extreme of the security proposals, his political career could be destroyed if something tragic happened.
His solution was to limit the enhancements to bollard barriers that blocked vehicles from getting near the Capitol and the nearby Truman state office building.
Eventually, the Truman building driveway barriers were removed.
But the Capitol bollards along with a guard station outside the Capitol garage entrance remain as one of the most effective protections I've seen installed.
The most noticeable security enhancement to the Capitol came in 2001 after 9/11 when metal detectors were installed to screen Capitol visitors.
With hundreds visiting the statehouse during a legislative day, the screenings created long lines outside the Capitol.
So many of the retired public safety officers hired to help staff the entrances smoked, visitors often had to wait in long lines outside the Capitol doors under a haze of tobacco smoke.
In just two years, the metal detectors were abandoned when the legislature dropped funding for the screeners
In 2002, a security door was installed between the Capitol basement and a tunnel to the Senate garage.
It was a two-door entrance with a small space between the two doors. A pass code had to be entered to open the first door.
After passing through the door, it closed before the other door would open to allow access to the other side.
It lasted only a few weeks after complaints by staffers, senators and the lieutenant governor.
Some complained the narrow space between the two doors made them claustrophobic and was too narrow for those overweight.
The most humorous Capitol security enhancement involved a bust of Rush Limbaugh.
The House speaker selected the radio commentator for his bust to be placed among those of other famous Missourians in the Capitol.
But the unveiling ceremony came two weeks after Limbaugh generated national criticism for calling a female college student a "slut" and "prostitute" for speaking before a congressional group in support of family planning.
Fearing protesters might try to deface Limbaugh's bust, a Capitol Police security camera was placed overlooking the bust.
Both the bust along with the camera remain.
I confess some conflicting thoughts about the issue of Capitol security.
I share Carnahan's views about maintaining easy citizen access to their Capitol.
But with my newsroom in the statehouse, I also have a personal stake in effective security.
[Phill Brooks has been a Missouri statehouse reporter since 1970, making him dean of the statehouse press corps. He is the statehouse correspondent for KMOX Radio, director of MDN and an emeritus faculty member of the Missouri School of Journalism. He has covered every governor since the late Warren Hearnes.]
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