The recent gun assault on the White House lawn has left the nation
wondering if security on Pennsylvania Avenue will be beefed up anytime
soon. And if efforts are increased, what exactly will that mean in terms of
interference with the governing process?

To think that we have such direct access to our nation's leadership that we
can literally come within feet of the president and his family each and
every day is incredible. Tours are given of the historic site, and
protesters have the right to shout their concerns within earshot outside
the iron gates.

To have even that kind of intimate relationship with the First Family
symbolizes the foundation of our representative form of government. For
someone to abuse that privilege, though, is something that could cause
damage for future generations if we react by eliminating access.

During the assessment of the ordeal, a secret service agent commented that
the president cannot "govern in a vacuum." One who assumes all the power
and responsibility (not necessarily real power) for any kind of enterprise
becomes a figurehead and sometimes the target of angry assault. A leader
should have the freedom to move about and keep in touch with the
constituency. Taking that away would be detrimental to our country.

Although the cause of this past weekend's attack it is not yet determined,
the moronic nature of its occurrence should be severely reprimanded. There
is talk currently that the gunfire could have been part of some twisted
suicide attempt. But no matter why some maniac fired a semi-automatic
weapon directed toward the White House, it is ironic to mention the fact
that the gunman, 26-year-old Fransisco Martin Duran, purchased his weapon
on the very day President Clinton signed the new crime bill into law.

At any rate, the secret service may not be able to completely provide the
protection the president may need. Obviously, any plan is not going to be
fool-proof. People cannot be everywhere at once to protect the president
from extremism. Luckily, there are concerned citizens, like the ones who
wrestled Duran to the ground, who help the secret service.

But the mere mention of closing off any of Pennsylvania Avenue will be a
mistake. Sure, times have changed and the potential for danger is
exponentially larger. Taking away the view of the White House, however, or
building any kind of barrier will only intimidate the people of our
country, and the action will become resented as a barrier of openness and
communication.