Gabrielle Giffords shooting renews (limited) attention on gun laws in the U.S.

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Long Island, NY Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy says she will introduce legislation in the House to address how to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, like Loughner.


"We need to look at how this is going to work, to protect people, certainly citizens, and we have to look at what I can pass," McCarthy said to Politico.com.


Whether that legislation goes anywhere is dubious, as Congress has ran away from enacting any meaningful gun-control laws in recent years. And most notoriously, they allowed the assault-weapon ban to expire in 2004.


The Wall Street Journal quotes a federal-law enforcement official as saying that if that law was still in effect, fewer people would have died on Saturday, referring to the assault-weapons ban:


It barred dealers from selling magazines holding more than 10 rounds. A federal law-enforcement official said Mr. Loughner's used a magazine with about three times that capacity. "Without that extended magazine you would not have seen the body count as high,"the official said.


In that same article, Paul Helmke from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says legislators should consider expanding the definition of mental illness when it comes to barring people from buying guns, and possibly require purchasers to submit references.


"Before a teenager gets a job at McDonalds, he has to give a couple of references and they call a teacher or neighbor," Mr. Helmke said. "But to buy a gun, nobody calls anybody."


There was some discussion on the Sunday talk shows about doing something proactive on guns, but it was limited. Fox News Sunday's Bret Baier asked the question of two freshmen U.S. Senators, Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware, and Republican Rand Paul from Kentucky:


BAIER: Senator Coons, do you think this incident will reignite efforts by gun control advocates to push for revision in gun laws?


COONS: I do think we need to responsibly enforce the existing gun laws that place barriers for those who are mentally unstable to gun ownership or gun use. I think, frankly, that we need to move forward toward the biggest challenges in front of us, making sure we get Americans back to work, tackling our deficit and our debt, dealing with the conflict in Afghanistan.


There are big challenges right in front of us, and frankly think that's what Congress needs to be focused on.


BAIER: Senator Paul, Arizona is one of three states where you can carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Alaska and Vermont are the other two. Is that at all in jeopardy, do you think?


PAUL: No, I don't think so. Interestingly, Representative Giffords was a defender of the Second Amendment and is a defender of the Second Amendment. So no, I don't think that plays into this at all. Really, I think they are unrelated.


It's probably about a very sick individual and what should have been done for that person. But the weapons don't kill people. It's the individual that killed these people.


The Washington Post reported Sunday night that Arizona is considered to have one of the most lax gun-control laws in the country, a fact that Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik has made reference to in some interviews he's given since Saturday morning:


"I have never been a proponent of letting everybody in this state carry weapons under any circumstances that they want," said Dupnik, a Democrat. "And that's almost where we are."


Dupnik criticized lawmakers who proposed a bill in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings to allow students and teachers to carry guns to class.


"That's the ridiculous state to where we have become," he said.


Guns are permitted almost everywhere in the state except a business or doctor's office. The state rifle association lists restaurants that permit concealed weapons. Guns are permissible inside the state Capitol and many other public buildings.


State law permits gun owners to carry a concealed weapon into establishments that serve alcohol as long as the gun owner isn't imbibing. Concealed guns are permitted on school grounds while picking up or dropping off a child, as long as the weapon is unloaded and the gun owner remains in a vehicle.


It should be noted that Gabrielle Giffords and U.S. District Judge John Roll, who was killed in Saturday's carnage, were against recent gun-control legislation.


Roll was one of the first judges in the country to strike down part of the Brady gun-control law, saying it was unconstitutional for the federal government to require states to conduct background checks. Ultimately, the law was upheld and background checks are required today. And Congresswoman Giffords joined a congressional friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to declare the District of Columbia's gun ban unconstitutional.

Jared Loughner's shooting spree on Saturday morning in Tucson that killed six people and wounded 20 others — including Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford — has ignited a passionate and at times angry national debate in the blogosophere and in other media circles on who is to blame for his moment of insane criminal behavior.

But only as an afterthought is it being discussed that this obviously troubled young man was able to easily purchase a weapon just a short time ago.

It should be noted immediately that there is no evidence that Loughner was under any court-ordered treatment. Officials say he bought his gun legally on Nov. 30 after a full background check at a Tucson outdoor-sports store.

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