Congressmen want increased security for themselves — but are they in more danger than teachers and doctors?

Jeff Winkler Contributor
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As soon as Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot by alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner, lawmakers began voicing their desire to beef up security for themselves and their work areas around the Capitol.

The hysteria of some elected officials has resulted in fantastic suggestions such as enclosing the House Gallery with Plexiglas to protect the public from members’ vitriolic spittle. Other suggestions include increasing the members’ office budgets by 15 percent in order to pay for more protection, as well as an “A to Z” review of the Capitol police and its security measures.

But is it really that dangerous to be an official representative of the people? Threats and attacks are serious concerns, but are they serious enough to justify special treatment at already-well-secured airports because some lawmakers feel “ill-at-ease” around the general public?

According to data from the Bureau of Labor, those precautions are probably justifiable so long as social workers and primary school teachers get to skip TSA pat-downs, bus drivers and animal trainers are given security details and health-care professionals are allowed to work with patients from behind three inches of shatter-proof glass.

As for salesmen, retail workers and their managers, they should all be issued a concealed-carry permit.

BOL compiles yearly data on the number of nonfatal assaults resulting in a missed day of work for state and local governments as well the private industry. Data is available for both the actual number of assaults as well as the rate per 10,000 full-time workers.

With 535 voting members in both the House and Senate, the assault on Rep. Giffords means that the rate of injury by assault for the lawmakers is about 18. That, of course, is if one considers the partisan, chaotic nightmare it would be to have 10,000 full-time national legislators.

How does that compare to other state government occupations?

• There were thousands of assaults on state government health-care professionals resulting in a missed day of work. Incident rates per 10,000 workers in this area sometimes reach 600, and usually hover around 200. To be fair, officials at the BOL said the numbers for health-care professional can appear to be so high because the relatively few people in the particular fields experience high assault rates, such as psychiatric orderlies and nurses’ aides.

• In relatively less danger are child, family and school social workers who experienced 170 assaults at a rate of 28 per 10,000 workers.

•  Children can be vicious little brats, especially when they’re in school. Occasionally, their parents can be even worse. There were 140 assaults on educators resulting in a missed day of work in 2009. Of that group, the poor teacher’s aides take the biggest beating with an assault rate of 11.6.

While lining the House’s public viewing gallery with Plexiglas might be creative, arming every lawmaker with a peacemaker or increasing their spending budgets is just reckless. There is, however, another very creative solution: Privatize legislation.

The total assault rate for state government workers in 2009 was 25.3 per 10,000. In private industry it was 1.7.

The above data for state government employees includes assault rates for police officers and muscle at detention centers, so the thinking here might be flawed. That, however, is clearly not an issue with congressmen, either.

If the idea of legislators taking on (advertised) corporate sponsors seems to drastic, at least consider some of the private sector numbers on assaults.

• Full-time bartenders, whose security resembles much of the Capitol (IDs required!) and who are surrounded by drunks and crazies on a daily basis, reported only 80 assaults in 2009.

• The assault rate on bus drivers is 16.6

• The assault rate of animal trainers (by other humans) is 17.4. with a total of 20 attacks in 2009.

When it’s all said and done, salesmen, retail workers and their managers should be armed to the teeth, though not to make the sale. Perhaps it’s because the customer always thinks he’s right, but with 140 deaths, this occupation suffered the most homicides in 2009.

Lawmakers received “hundreds of threats” between 2000 and 2009, according to the New York Times. Senators and their staff specifically reported 49 threats in 2010 and 29 in 2009, according to USA Today. Many of these threats were treated with the seriousness they deserved and if the Capitol Police’s track record is any indication, rarely does an actual threat get near the lawmakers.

As many outlets have noted, the last lawmaker to die from an assailant was in 1978. According to MSNBC, a total of nine lawmakers have ever been attacked since 1856, one by a fellow colleague. If one considers each congress since 1865 an entirely brand new crop of people, about nine of 35,069 workers have ever been hurt by an assault. You do the math.

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Joe Tauke assisted in adding up really big numbers.