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Undeterred, pols meet with constituents

LAS VEGAS - Rep. Shelley Berkley threw open the doors of her congressional office Friday, inviting constituents to stop in to ask questions, lodge complaints or plead for help.

There was no metal detector, no pat-downs. People had only to fill out a card to see the congresswoman.

The open house was much the same as the event held by Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords a week ago, except for one thing: In Las Vegas, five patrol cars idled in the parking lot.

At least a half-dozen lawmakers around the country met with constituents Friday at gatherings similar to the "Congress on Your Corner" meeting where Giffords was shot through the head. The events, they said, would send a message: Violence will not keep us from meeting face-to-face with our constituents at supermarkets, hardware stores or anywhere else.

"This country is based on democracy, and democracy didn't just fall into our laps," said Carrie Matt, a casino accountant who came to talk to Berkley, a Democrat, about student financial aid and health care. "It was hard-fought, and no one is going to deter me from accessing my democracy."

At Giffords' event Jan. 8, a young man asked where the congresswoman was, and aides asked him to get in line. Moments later, he shot her and 18 others. Six were killed.

The threat of copycat attacks resulted in stepped-up security. Rep. Christopher Murphy of Connecticut met late Thursday at a supermarket in Simsbury. Police sent an officer, who stood by inconspicuously as shoppers spoke with the Democratic congressman.

Last week's shooting won't have any sort of "chilling effect on political dialogue," Murphy said.

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