Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are calling for new gun-control legislation in the wake of the shootings in Tucson, Arizona last Saturday that left six people dead and 15 injured, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ, who remains in critical condition, as do five other victims.
U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-NY and the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, plans to introduce legislation that would make it illegal to knowingly carry a gun within 1,000 feet of the President, Vice President, Members of Congress or judges of the Federal Judiciary, according to a statement released by King's office.
King noted that in the U.S., it is illegal to bring a gun within 1,000 feet of a school.
Passing a similar law for government officials would give federal, state, and local law enforcement a better chance to intercept would-be shooters before they pull the trigger, King said.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, appearing with King at a press conference announcing the proposal, is also a Republican but, unlike many in his party, a strong proponent of gun control. He praised King's initiative.
The system that's supposed to protect us from dangerous and deranged people has failed, said Bloomberg, who is the head of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
The mayor called on people to get serious about the issue.
It is an uphill struggle, but if all of us join it, if all of us speak out, I believe we really can make a difference and save lives, Bloomberg said.
Among Democrats, Sens. Diane Feinstein, D-CA and Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-NY, are also preparing legislation aimed at gun control. Lautenberg and McCarthy are going after high-capacity magazines, as the one used by Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged Tucson gunman now in custody.
The only reason to have 33 bullets loaded in a handgun is to kill a lot of people very quickly. These high-capacity clips simply should not be on the market, Lautenberg said. Before 2004, these ammunition clips were banned, and they must be banned again. When the Senate returns to Washington, I will introduce legislation to prohibit this type of high-capacity clip.
From 1994 to 2004, high-capacity ammunition magazines were illegal, as part of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. When the ban expired in 2004, Republican leaders in Congress pledged to not resurrect it, Lautenberg said.
Since that time, high-capacity clips, carrying more than 10 rounds a clip, have been legal to manufacture and sell. According to Arizona law enforcement officials, Loughner used a 9 mm Glock semiautomatic pistol with a high-capacity clip that allowed him to fire 33 rounds. He emptied the clip and was trying to reload when subdued by several citizens.
Senator Lautenberg's bill would return the law to the 2004 standard.
McCarthy, who decided to run for Congress after losing her husband and seeing her son seriously injured in the Long Island train massacre of 1993, is preparing similar legislation to introduce in the House.
When you think about just common sense here, large-capacity clips that can basically, in my opinion, be weapons of mass destruction, should not be available to the general public, she said.
Feinstein became mayor of San Francisco in 1979 after the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, both gunned down in City Hall.
As a senator, Feinstein authored the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004.
In a statement Monday, Feinstein said she is looking at all of the options in putting together new restrictions on weapons and expected to consult with Republicans as well as Democrats.
According to published reports, Arizona has some of the most lax guns laws in the nation. Loughner apparently purchased the Glock at a store in Tucson with a minimal background check.
Until last year, it was illegal in Arizona to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Former Arizona governor, and current federal Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, resisted gun lobby efforts to repeal the law.
But in January, 2010, current Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer repealed the law and allowed Arizonans to carry concealed weapons without a permit.
We, as Americans, can and should do more to restore civility to our political discourse, said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. And we can and should do more to address the easy access to high-powered guns that make it too easy for dangerous and irresponsible people to disrupt and destroy the lives of innocent Americans, and political leaders who are simply trying to serve their communities and our country.
The largest gun lobby in the nation, the NRA, has so far declined to comment on the re-emergent issue.
At this time, anything other than prayers for the victims and their families would be inappropriate, said Andrew Arulanandam, NRA director of public affairs.
Some Members of Congress see the Arizona shootings as reason to pack heat.
U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, D-NC, said he will start carrying a handgun for personal protection when he attends public events away from Washington.
You never think something like this will happen, but then it does, Shuler said. After the elections, I let my guard down. Now I know I need to have my gun on me. We're going to need to do a much better job with security at these events.
Jason Chaffetz, R-UT, said he plans to carry a gun while in his home district.
I just feel more comfortable having it there if the unmentionable, if the unfathomable were actually to happen, he said.