Could museum shooting happen here?

June 11, 2009 3:32:08 AM PDT
There is a Holocaust Museum here in Houston in the museum district and they have been keeping an eye on the events which happened Wednesday in Washington, D.C. The Holocaust Museum Houston building is closely monitored on a constant basis by security, but immediately following the shooting in Washington, they added extra precautions including local law enforcement.

On the day of the shooting in our nation's capitol, Pedro Cohn was making a visit to the Holocaust Museum Houston. His now Guatemalan family has Jewish and German roots.

"I think it's terrible. I hope we aren't seeing some sort of comeback against Jewish people or any other people of the world," said Cohn.

Within an hour of the shooting in Washington, police in Houston arrived here to make sure everything was safe.

"We're just stunned that this type of thing could still happen in this country but that goes back to our very mission at heart; is that lessons of hatred, prejudice, apathy still have to be taught," said Ira Perry, Holocaust Museum Houston spokesperson.

Perry said they consider Houston the second most influential holocaust museum after the one in Washington, reaching more than two million people a year.

"We do realize that there is the potential for things like this to happen anywhere in the world and that includes Houston, unfortunately," said Perry.

Especially after recent reports show increased activity among hate groups. According to a report released in February by the Southern Poverty Law Center, hate groups in the U.S. have risen 54% since 2000.

"The most important thing here is law enforcement. They have to be aware of these organizations and monitor these organizations," said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The SPLC pinpoints where the greatest concentration of hate groups are located. The report said last year there were 926 hate groups, up four percent from the previous year.

The organization said immigration fears, a failing economy, and the successful campaign of President Barack Obama fueled the increase.

From the Holocaust Museum to the University of Houston campus, there are efforts by many to stop hate before it starts. Jamie Parker leads the Houston chapter of an international organization called Peace Jam, which teaches young kids tolerance and understanding.

"The youth really are the future and if we can direct their energy in the right direction then I think there is a lot of hope for the future," said Parker.

At the Holocaust Museum Houston, administrators said they will be reviewing security procedures here to see if any changes are needed.

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