In the Wake of Tragedy in Tucson, Lawmakers Push for New Gun Laws

Lawmakers in the House and Senate Unveil New Legislation

January 17, 2011, 12:56 PM

January 17, 2010 -- In the wake of the Tragedy in Tucson, numerous lawmakers in the House and Senate have unveiled proposals to try to prevent such incidents from happening again.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., want to prohibit high-capacity ammunition clips like the one used in the Glock 19 by suspect Jared Loughner in the Arizona shooting. From 1994 to 2004, an assault weapons ban restricted magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds, but today only the District of Columbia and six states – New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Hawaii, California and Massachusetts – still ban clips holding more than 10 rounds. The Glock 19 used by Jared Lee Loughner in Arizona was fitted with an extended clip holding as many as 33 rounds.

"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 in a statement about his proposal. "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."

Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wants the military to inform the FBI's national database when someone is rejected for enlistment because of illegal drug use. In a letter to the Obama administration on Sunday, Schumer said such a move would have prevented Loughner from buying a gun.

"Had this reporting requirement been in place, Loughner would likely have been prevented from purchasing a firearm. We should fix this reporting loophole so that future tragedies can be prevented," Schumer wrote in his letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson.

Last week, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said he would be "introducing in the next several weeks legislation that would make it a federal crime to carry a weapon within 1,000 feet of any event which is attended by the president, the vice president, members of the Senate, members of the House of Representatives, cabinet officials, including the CIA director as well as federal judges."

In the United States, it is illegal to bring a gun within 1,000 feet of a school. Passing a similar law to protect government officials would give federal, state, and local law enforcement a better chance to intercept potential gunmen before they pull the trigger, according to King.

Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., has called for a renewed focus on mental health in the wake of the tragic shooting in Arizona.

The Mental Health in Schools Act, proposed by Napolitano, aims at funding on-site mental health services for youth. The programs outlined in the bill would treat preventable mental health problems early, in school, to help prevent depression, crime, and suicide.

"We need to begin to impress upon both the state and federal governments the urgency of this," Napolitano said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. "I'm not saying it could have prevented this, but it certainly would have been better to have help for the individual before it got to this point. We are not informing and educating the public enough to help them make the decisions to help those that they love."

While lawmakers unveil a flurry of Tucson-related legislation, it will still be difficult for any sweeping measures to emerge from a divided Congress, with Republicans in control of the House and Democrats in command of the Senate. But if anything can spur lawmakers to find common ground, many say the spirit of bipartisanship in the wake of a national tragedy like Tucson's could do it.