Last week, a 36-year old man from California named John Patrick Bedell walked up to the busy entrance of the Pentagon and unleashed his semi-automatic weapon on two security officers, injuring both before being mortally wounded.
Just the week before, a man flew a plane into an Internal Revenue Service office in Austin, Texas. The murder-suicide caused panic across the city and claimed the life of IRS employee Vernon Hunter, a two-tour Vietnam War veteran. The assailant, Andrew Stack, penned an anti-government manifesto before the flight that inspired empathy from some Americans. Some truly sick individuals even dedicated Facebook pages to Stack, praising his “martyrdom.”
These acts were more than sensational attempts at mass murder; they were acts of domestic terrorism with federal employees as targets.
Assaulting or murdering a federal employee engaged in or because of his or her work is a federal crime, and the Justice Department investigates some 300 cases per year. IRS employees seem to be routinely targeted. Vernon Hunter’s murder was just one of the more sensational attacks on Internal Revenue Service personnel. Recent reports show that more than 1,200 assaults of this nature occurred across the country from 2001 to 2008, of which roughly 200 resulted in convictions.
More than two million civilian employees in the federal workforce provide dedicated service to America and its people. These services include fighting crime, distributing our mail, carrying out our laws, building our roads and ensuring justice and order. They also include serving in the military and defending the homeland and strategic interests abroad, protecting our environment and vital habitats, responding to major crises and natural disasters, and advancing our economic interests around the world.
Everyday, across the nation, hundreds of thousands of men and women go to work to provide services that keep this nation functioning. We should be thankful for their work, not hostile to it.
Next week, I plan to introduce a Congressional Resolution affirming that federal employees are entitled to, and should come to expect, a reasonable degree of personal safety and security on the job. We should consider these recent events a reminder of the need for continued diligence in our efforts to protect the public from terror threats both abroad, and sadly enough, at home.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.