LAUREL, Md. — The murders of 11 people in a Pittsburgh temple happened in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, where a young Ben Cardin contemplated what he wanted to do with his life when he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh.
Now, Maryland’s senior senator, Cardin, a Democrat, is seeking to reassure local police chiefs they will receive the financial tools needed to protect their communities.
Speaking Tuesday before the Police Chiefs’ Association of Prince George’s County, at the city of Laurel’s police headquarters, Cardin said that Saturday’s murder of 11 people in the Tree of Life Synagogue affected him personally.
“It showed our vulnerability, and it brought out the worst fears, where people are killed solely because of their religion,” said Cardin, who is Jewish and who spent time in the neighborhood while an undergraduate.
“Squirrel Hill provided a sanctuary for a Jewish student to be able to have the support of a community,” said Cardin, speaking with reporters. “It reminds me a great deal of the community I grew up with in Baltimore — a closely knit Jewish community.”
Cardin asked the gathered law enforcers how Congress could support police, in an environment where threats and incidents of mass violence are becoming more prevalent.
Prince George’s County Sheriff Melvin High, the president of the local chief’s association, said the Pittsburgh attacker was aware of security vulnerabilities within the temple, and said law enforcers often are underfunded.
Cardin didn’t disagree with the frustration expressed by police.
“They need to spread their force over a broader area of concern than they did just a few years ago, and the resources have not kept up with the needs,” said Cardin. “You shouldn’t have to have an armed guard in front of sanctuary, or a church, or a mosque. You shouldn’t have to have armed guards in our schools.”
Cardin said the alleged shooter, Robert Bowers, was able to outgun four police officers with an assault rifle. He called for additional legislation to reduce the prevalence of the weapons, which are banned in Maryland.
Despite debate over arming employees in a building, Cardin said “no one disagrees with showing physical security.”
“The physical presences of security acts as a deterrent, so if you are in charge of safety in a congregation or a church, you’re going to have security. That’s a new reality. It’s unfortunate, it shouldn’t have to be, but it’s a reality of where we are today.”
Cardin said he expects Maryland residents will continue with their lives, with a firm determination.
“This Saturday I know that you’re going to see synagogues in Maryland full — many more people will be there than are normally there on a Saturday morning — to show solidarity with what happened in Pittsburgh.”
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