Losing Liberties: Legislators and Agencies Are Working on Security and Civil-Rights Issues. (Security)

Article excerpt

After rushing to post metal detectors at entrances to state capitols, legislators have realized there's nothing they can do about people carrying firearms into the buildings: Many states grant residents the right to carry a gun in public spaces.

That's the case in Kentucky, where the state constitution specifically grants residents the right to carry an unconcealed firearm in public, and where state law allows permit holders to carry one concealed. Visitors who carry weapons into the Capitol simply are waived through after they are checked out.

At least one local legislator thinks the detectors should be done away with. "It is absolutely a waste of money as far as I'm concerned" says state Rep. Robert R. Damron, a Democrat. "It's an overreaction. The whole process -- 90 percent of all the security measures we're going through in the country are over-reactions. And, to me, that says we've let the terrorists win."

Most states are trying to balance protection with public access. "The states are kind of moving slowly on this because they're concerned about making sure the public always has access to their building" says Kae M. Warnock, an analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Before Sept. 11 only two states, Georgia and Alabama, regularly made visitors pass through metal detectors to enter their capitols, according to the NCSL.

Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans for a national transportation-worker identity card intended as a first step toward "trusted-traveler" cards for airline passengers. …