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Built in 1963, the Governor's Mansion has been home to nine of the state's governors and their families. First lady Donna Edwards recently revived the foundation that oversees the historic structure so the interior rooms could be spruced up.

Before they put a fence round the governor's mansion in Baton Rouge, undesirable characters strolled around as they pleased.

But that's not why the iron railings went up, for no harm had come to then-Gov. Edwin Edwards. Those sociopaths were all his friends. Some took part in his regular poker games. Some would go on to be sentenced to prison along with him in the great riverboat casino license shakedown.

Edwards' successor, Mike Foster, authorized the fence in 1998 after some lunatic gunned down a couple of guards at the U.S. Capitol. Foster nevertheless stressed that he wasn't scared, because he was “usually well armed” and had every confidence in the state troopers responsible for his security.

Our current governor, John Bel Edwards, a former army captain and Second Amendment fan, no doubt knows how to handle himself too, and says he also has faith in state police. This is odd, considering that an intruder was found asleep on a sofa in the mansion on the morning of April 17. He had evidently not fallen noiselessly into arms of Morpheus – an antique table close by was damaged.

Although Edwards said that at no time were and his family “anything other than safe,” the level of security indisputably fell far short of what is required. State governors can hardly help making some of their constituents mad, and there is clearly no shortage of homicidal maniacs out there.

When Reynard Toby Green, the 34-year-old mansion trespasser, was roused from his slumber, he turned violent. This was such a spectacular breakdown in mansion security that state police were by no means inclined to come clean about it, as Kevin McGill of the Associated Press explained in these pages Monday.

Initial reports identified the site of Green's repose only as a “government building,” and included “burglary of an inhabited dwelling” among his alleged offenses.

Only five days later, after prodding from the Associated Press, were the inhabitants of the burglarized building identified as the Edwards family. State police then announced that they were “evaluating security procedures for potential areas of improvement.” There should be plenty of those.

Green does not appear to be the kind of guy you'd want to find in your house at breakfast time – he was booked with battery on one police officer and attempting to disarm another – and, indeed, he might have fared worse had he chosen to invade any other house.

Louisiana is ranked the 10th most heavily armed state in the union, according to a CBS survey, and a homicide is deemed justifiable if committed in self defense by someone who “reasonably believes” that he is in “imminent danger” of death or serious injury. A householder, moreover, is entitled to use deadly force if he “reasonably believes” it is necessary to keep an intruder out or make him leave.

Youngsters are therefore advised that burglary is not a wise career choice in Louisiana. There is a good chance that the house you choose to break into will have guns everywhere and you will probably be fair game for the folks whose valuables you propose to stuff in your swag bag.

Burglary does not carry such lethal risks in other countries, for hardly anyone is rodded up in, say. Britain. Among the exceptions is the officer who guards the queen's chambers at Buckingham Palace, but he was not at his post when Michael Fagan showed up early one morning in 1982.

Fagan's security breach put Green's in the shade, for, if the Edwardses were never in danger, the same could hardly be said for Her Majesty. Fagan, having scaled the 14 foot palace wall, topped with barbed wire, shinnied up a drainpipe, wandered the corridors until he found the royal bedroom, woke the queen up and reportedly asked for cigarettes, which a housemaid brought. Nobody was hurt in the incident, but Fagan, who was subsequently confined to a psychiatric hospital, exposed gaps in the security arrangements that could have had dire consequences.

So did Green. The next time cops fail to take care of a major public official, we may not be so lucky.

Email James Gill at Gill1407@bellsouth.net.