Abortion rights activists protest outside the house of U.S, Supreme...

Abortion rights activists protest outside the house of U.S, Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh Sept. 13, in Chevy Chase, Maryland.  Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has a lovely home. It’s a modest white clapboard Dutch Colonial in suburban Maryland shaded by what looks to be an old growth sugar maple out front. An American flag waves beside its front steps; a worn children’s basketball hoop abuts the street.

His colleague on the court, Amy Coney Barrett, has an equally unpretentious brick Colonial on a modern cul-de-sac in suburban Virginia. She and her husband apparently like to park their cars, a silver Chevy SUV and a Fordish-looking white sedan, in their stubby driveway just off the road instead of in their two-car garage. That’s what readily available photos online suggest, anyway.

What’s striking about both houses isn’t just how normal they appear — a well-paid plumber or school administrator could live in either of them — or how easy their addresses and photos of them are to come by, but how vulnerable they are to anyone who might wish their occupants harm. They’re wide open to attack.

Violence almost came to pass a few weeks ago in Kavanaugh’s case. A California man traversed the country with hate in his heart and an alleged plan to assassinate the justice in his mind. Thankfully, he called 911 on himself while outside Kavanaugh’s house. That’s how close a call it was.

But day and night, Kavanaugh’s and Coney Barrett’s homes have become ground zero for raucous demonstrations, mostly over abortion, even though it’s technically illegal to picket outside a judge’s home (18 U.S. Code § 1507). The Supreme Court decision over concealed carry guns will only prompt more. The justices are not alone: Sen. Chuck Schumer’s Park Slope apartment building — it's at least protected by a doorman — has been the focus of protesters for several years. Other politicians of both parties are suddenly seeing demonstrators gathering outside front doors, too, in a clear effort to intimidate.

When I started working in politics, this never would have happened. Homes of political figures were off limits. There was no written guidebook; it simply wasn’t done. Not only was it dangerous, it would have been considered rude.

Things started to change 10 or so years ago, as internet organizing began turning the political industry into a do-it-yourself kit. Then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s former home in Mount Kisco, just down the road from where I live, was the first frequent target I noticed. As much as I opposed Cuomo politically, it didn’t sit right with me. These people were breaking the rules.

Soon, house protests jumped the divide from grassroots politics to grasstops politics — a tactic not just for impassioned ad hoc groups, but one officially sanctioned by campaigns and established interest groups. Why gather outside an opponent’s office when you can get to them where they live?

I soon found myself at a news conference outside Bill and Hillary Clinton’s home in Chappaqua trying to rationalize what I was doing — it's a gated house with Secret Service protection, we're not even that close to it — when I knew darn well it was wrong. I shouldn’t have been there, and won’t be again.

But the genie is out of the bottle now, and one is hard-pressed to think of a time when any genie was recaptured. Once they escape, they’re virtually irretrievable.

In a country experiencing hair-trigger political volatility and an alarming mental health crisis, we’ve got a problem on our hands. It’s only a matter of time before something really bad happens.

We need some rules.

Opinions expressed by William F. B. O’Reilly, a consultant to Republicans, are his own.