King to introduce gun-restriction legislation in response to Tucson shooting

posted at 3:35 pm on January 11, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Rep. Peter King, a Republican from New York, will introduce legislation that will make it a federal crime to carry a firearm within 1,000 feet of federal officeholders and judges in response to the shooting in Tucson that killed Judge John Roll and gravely injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.  King, who chairs the Homeland Security committee in the House, will get support from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a longtime advocate for gun control (via The Daily Caller):

Rep. Peter King, a Republican from New York, is planning to introduce legislation that would make it illegal to bring a gun within 1,000 feet of a government official, according to a person familiar with the congressman’s intentions.

King is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. The proposed law follows the Saturday shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and a federal judge that left six dead, including the judge, and 14 wounded.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the nation’s most outspoken gun-control advocates, is backing King’s measure and is expected to put the weight of his pro-gun-control organization behind it.

There are two questions involved in any gun-control legislation, the first of which is whether it will be constitutional, and the second of which is whether it will do any good.  Let’s take those in order.  Courts have thus far upheld reasonable restrictions on where guns may and may not be carried, such as courthouses and in the vicinity of schools.  However, those are fixed locations, not mobile personnel, locations for which a court could reasonably expect most people to know.  If one carries a gun legally to a public place without knowledge of the presence of a judge or member of Congress, then an arrest would probably be unreasonable (although courts might end up ruling otherwise).  And if an arrest without any kind of attempt to initiate an assault is considered unreasonable, then the law is superfluous, since the attempt itself would be illegal already.

Some may also argue that an attempt to create a special class of protected people in this law might also fail to pass constitutional muster.  I’d say a court would take a long look at whether Congress has a compelling state interest in passing such legislation, at least on that point, and wouldn’t bet that they’d rule no.  A better question might be jurisdiction, where the law would create a mandate on state and local police to enforce federal law.  The Obama administration just got done arguing in federal court that Arizona should be constrained from enforcing federal immigration law, to which the district court agreed.  Would states not have an argument in the other direction in the case of this law?

Next, let’s look at its effectiveness.  Would such a law work in the sense that it would make these protected classes more safe?  Such a law would not have stopped the shooting in Tucson.  Had anyone in law enforcement seen the pistol in Jared Lee Loughner’s hands, they almost certainly would have reacted to it immediately by detaining him even without the federal law.  Depending on the circumstances, they may not have been able to prosecute him under existing state law, but perhaps they could have confiscated his gun and revoked his permit after discovering just how insane he was and the evidence of his grudge against Giffords.  Of course, the sheriff’s department in Tucson already knew of Loughner and hadn’t done much about it, but that won’t change under King’s proposed law, either.

King’s effort is of questionable constitutional and operational merit at best.  It seems like another example of my axiom, Legislate in haste, repent at leisure.  Rather than issue knee-jerk proposals to change the law, let’s see where the evidence leads us in this case to determine how best to protect everyone from lunatics like Loughner.

Regarding the legislate-in-haste dynamic, Nick Gillespie and Ted Balaker at Reason TV have a good video reminding us that exigent cases make for poor choices in the short term:

Update: Ben Domenech calls King’s proposal “silly,” and for many of the same reasons I do.


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This is one of those special kinds of gun laws that isn’t (just) offensive because of its arrogant, patrician “tone” (if you’ll pardon the term) and its contempt for the Constitution.

No, this is one of the really good ones: a gun law that is mathematically, provably incapable of doing any good. Think about it. Would any murderer comply with the law? Would any assassin consult with nearby authorities? What what authorities do with this law, since it wouldn’t (and can’t ) give them the right to search people without probable cause? Would any prospective assailant interact with this law in any meaningful way?

The only possible result of the law is the prosecution of citizens who accidentally or ignorantly bring their weapons within 1000 ft of federal officials. Which happens dozens, if not hundreds of times every day. Then again, this is the sort of “security” the federal government specializes in: visible harassment and prosecution of non-threats.

HitNRun on January 12, 2011 at 12:12 AM

Some may also argue that an attempt to create a special class of protected people in this law might also fail to pass constitutional muster. I’d say a court would take a long look at whether Congress has a compelling state interest in passing such legislation, at least on that point, and wouldn’t bet that they’d rule no. A better question might be jurisdiction, where the law would create a mandate on state and local police to enforce federal law.

I’d argue that this proposed law is unenforceable. The public is going to be (potentially, per this law idea) responsible for getting up and running away, past 1,000 feet, from any politician (or perhaps also federal court judge, employee, member of someone’s office, etc.)?

You’re walking down the street, legally carrying a weapon, licensed, etc., and a politician or a rally comes around the corner, what do you do, get arrested, jumped on, do you run down the street in fear of arrest and then get arrested for being nuts, what?

This is not a good idea, this law idea of King’s.

We already have laws that forbid guns/weapons being taken into federal buildings (except if you’re a marshal or related), so what’s the point, that the public is expected to flee when a politician makes a public appearance, to stand back over a 1,000 feet? Defeats the entire idea of public speaking events by politicians.

Lourdes on January 12, 2011 at 12:17 AM

The only possible result of the law is the prosecution of citizens who accidentally or ignorantly bring their weapons within 1000 ft of federal officials. Which happens dozens, if not hundreds of times every day. Then again, this is the sort of “security” the federal government specializes in: visible harassment and prosecution of non-threats.

HitNRun on January 12, 2011 at 12:12 AM

Exactly.

Criminals aren’t affected by most gun laws, only law abiding citizens are.

Lourdes on January 12, 2011 at 12:18 AM

this is the sort of “security” the federal government specializes in: visible harassment and prosecution of non-threats.

HitNRun on January 12, 2011 at 12:12 AM

This isn’t a law aimed at increased security. It’s a law aimed at increased condemnation of citizens’ rights…and harassment. Just a bad idea for a law, unnecessary.

I’m noting how many a politician is now claiming they need INCREASED security and increased access to arms and armed personnel, while they are intently promoting DECREASING ALL OF THAT for citizens.

They need to realize they’re citizens, what rights they enjoy, other citizens do, too.

Lourdes on January 12, 2011 at 12:20 AM

It’s probably already been said but it bears repeating:

One of the heroes that tackled Loughner would have been in violation of King’s law because he had a concealed firearm on his person. Presumably King would have had the hero arrested before the assassination even took place, like when he entered the drugstore.

If a security detail is busy arresting law abiding citizens, possibly even leaving the scene for processing, it leaves the subjects of their protection more vulnerable.

This is a bad bill and King should be ashamed.

FloatingRock on January 12, 2011 at 12:28 AM

Violence happens even when there is Gun Control. Rep. King – Don’t be STUPID.

antisocial on January 12, 2011 at 12:44 AM

It seems to me working in Mexico…

… Oh, wait!

Seven Percent Solution on January 12, 2011 at 2:28 AM

Ummmm, what happened to re-limiting the Federal government from exceeding its Constitutional mandate?

Don’t think for a second that I’m taking my eye off you. Your jobs are still on the line.

Saltysam on January 12, 2011 at 6:41 AM

After sleeping on this, I am now TOTALLY IN FAVOR of this legislation as it will keep me at least 1,000 feet away from any elected or appointed Federal Official! Thank you Rep. King for making the air around me smell better.

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on January 12, 2011 at 7:28 AM

After sleeping on this, I am now TOTALLY IN FAVOR of this legislation as it will keep me at least 1,000 feet away from any elected or appointed Federal Official! Thank you Rep. King for making the air around me smell better.

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on January 12, 2011 at 7:28 AM

Great snark, DPRVI. AP could take a lesson.

Extrafishy on January 12, 2011 at 10:01 AM

I didn’t realize King was such a tool.

Bugler on January 12, 2011 at 10:32 AM

how would you know if someone in a grocery store line is a judge or congressman?

charmingtail on January 12, 2011 at 12:50 PM

The further Congress removes itself from their voters, the more rules and laws they pass that are seen as giving them special status, the more likely some nut will act to get their attention, perhaps violently. The proposed law (DOA in Congress) does nothing to improve Congress but would really anger millions of gun owners. As has been demonstrated scores of times since the scheme arose, mass murderers do not pay the slightest attention to gun free zones except as they search them out as safe locations to carry out their violence.

JIMV on January 12, 2011 at 12:58 PM

After sleeping on this, I am now TOTALLY IN FAVOR of this legislation as it will keep me at least 1,000 feet away from any elected or appointed Federal Official! Thank you Rep. King for making the air around me smell better.

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on January 12, 2011 at 7:28 AM

Perhaps we need a law that would make the Congressman legally culpable for coming within 1000 feet of a citizen, his boss, carrying a weapon.

JIMV on January 12, 2011 at 1:03 PM

I’ve worked with King in the past. He’s not just from New York, he’s from one of the most expensive cost-of-living suburbs in the country. Saying that, I’m really surprised that he came up with this. He’s always been really good, especially since this area is awfully conservative compared to the rest of downstate NY.

Rainsford on January 12, 2011 at 1:25 PM

Lets solve all this… why do these ass wipes have to leave home at all???? Can’t they do tele-conferences? why do we need to pay for them to go to D.C.? just make them stay in a bullet proof office in their districts…it would cut cost too.

charmingtail on January 12, 2011 at 2:29 PM

What an a-hole! Another RINO, though and though

blue1 on January 12, 2011 at 3:20 PM

I am in the U.K,Peter King didn’t mind what weapons or explosives were used on our elected officals or citizens.

He called the I.R.A the ‘legitimate force’ of occupied Ireland ,fundraising and giving them political support .

During this time they nearly wiped out the Tory cabinet and nearly killed Thatcher and did kill other MP’S and members of the Royal family.Including two mortar attacks on 10 Downing ST and the bombing of the Palace of Westminister.

Peter King refused to condemn any acts of violence carried out by these terrorists,including the bombing of a church service on Remembrance Sunday killing old soldiers with their shiny medals on.

Can you imagine how we feel when he is now your expert on terrorism and this history has little effect on how he is viewed .

mags on January 12, 2011 at 4:04 PM

Is that a picture of Mayor Quimby form the Simpsons? That is the only reason he would be wearing a sash with his title, lol.

jeffn21 on January 12, 2011 at 4:20 PM

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