A series of bomb threats across Arizona, including one at the Capitol Friday morning, has some of the state’s top officials looking at passing tougher laws.
Gov. Janet Napolitano said laws against such hoaxes may need to be stiffened to prevent future disruptions. Right now, violators can be prosecuted under a class 1 misdemeanor.
She made the comment Friday afternoon during a press conference to discuss the bomb threat that forced the evacuation of the state capitol earlier in the day. The threat was one of several that were called in across the state following the killing of 32 students and teachers Monday at Virginia Tech and on the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine school massacre in Colorado.
“That’s something we need to look at and review in light of what happened today and what has happened across the country today,” Napolitano said.
Law enforcement officials ordered the evacuation of the Executive Tower and the House and Senate buildings at about 7 a.m. at 1700 W. Washington St. in Phoenix after a caller threatened he was going to detonate a bomb, state officials said.
Police sent bomb-sniffing dogs to search the buildings before employees were allowed to return about four hours later.
The question of stiffer penalties also is on the mind of Senate President Tim Bee.
Bee said the Capitol gets threats on average of one every 12 to 18 months. He said it harsher punishments might be necessary for those who make those kind of calls.
Bee also said the scare, while it turned out to be a hoax, should prompt a review of overall security in the complex.
New security measures were put in place at many public buildings across the state in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That includes the capitol tower, where the governor’s office is located. Visitors now must pass through a metal detector.
“The security of our elected officials and the staff that works there is important,” Bee said.
Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.