Giffords Shooting in Arizona Spurs Gun Law Debate

Shooting prompts new proposals, but action seems unlikely.

By + More

Jim Brady and his wife, Sarah, began their involvement in the gun control movement after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. Brady, then Reagan's press secretary, was shot and permanently disabled in the attack. But it wasn't until 12 years later that a bill named in his honor, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, became law. The Brady Bill requires federal background checks for most firearm purchases.

The National Rifle Association initially kept a low profile on the issue, but on Friday blasted the proposed magazine ban. "These magazines are standard equipment for self-defense handguns and other firearms owned by tens of millions of Americans," an NRA press release stated. "Law-abiding private citizens choose them for many reasons, including the same reason police officers do: to improve their odds in defensive situations." Some lawmakers have said that this incident requires gun control laws to be loosened. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, has called for a law allowing members of Congress to carry a concealed weapon in the District of Columbia. "There is a rash of legislation further infringing on Second Amendment rights that has been unwisely proffered in the wake of events in Tucson," Gohmert said. "Though I do not anticipate carrying a gun in Washington, D.C., myself, members of Congress should have the right to protect themselves from sudden acts of violence like the heartless shootings in Tucson." Giffords herself has been a Second Amendment advocate. She received a lifetime "C" rating from the NRA during the past election but has supported several measures to strengthen the right to carry guns, including a bill voiding D.C.'s handgun ban.

Aside from gun control, the shooting also provoked a discussion about rancor and vitriol in politics. Predictably, the discussion became heated, with many liberals blaming partisan rhetoric for creating a climate of violence and with many conservatives blasting Democrats for politicizing the tragedy. Rep. Bob Brady, a Pennsylvania Democrat, wants to beef up penalties for those who make threats to members of Congress. His proposal would expand a federal law forbidding threats to the president or vice president to include members of Congress.

Despite reviews of security procedures, lawmakers have vowed not to put up barriers between themselves and their constituents. "I don't want to see representatives walking around with security," Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy said at a press conference Tuesday. "The one place where we can really be ourselves is at home, and we wouldn't want that to go away."

  • See photos of the aftermath of the Giffords shooting.
  • See who in Congress gets the most from gun rights groups.
  • See who in Congress gets the most from gun control groups.