WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In the aftermath of the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, a pair of lawmakers on Monday called for resurrecting a ban on some assault weapons and for making it a crime to threaten members of Congress and other federal officials.
Representative Carolyn McCarthy will try to ban “high-capacity clips” like the one police say was used by a gunman to gravely wound Giffords as she met with constituents, said spokesman Shams Tarek.
“She’s been working on it. This is why she came to Congress in the first place. But certainly there’s an extra push now in light of what happened” in Tucson, Tarek said in a telephone interview.
Democrat McCarthy, a proponent of gun control, came to Congress after her husband was one of several people killed in 1993 when an assailant opened fire on a New York commuter train.
Tarek said the high-capacity clips that hold dozens of rounds of ammunition had been prohibited in an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 after being in place for 10 years.
Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg, who is working with McCarthy on legislation, said: “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.”
Tucson police said Jared Lee Loughner, 22, showed up on Saturday at a Giffords’ “Congress on Your Corner” event with a semi-automatic pistol and extra-long clips, then shot 20 people with a spray of bullets.
Giffords suffered a gunshot wound to the head and six died including federal judge John Roll, Giffords’ staff member Gabe Zimmerman and nine-year-old Christina Green.
The powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby has successfully fought efforts to renew the gun control law, but attempts to contact the group for comment on this latest legislation were unsuccessful.
On an Internet site, the NRA quoted a study that it said concluded that magazine limit is not a factor in multiple-victim or multiple-wound crimes.
It is unclear whether the new Congress, with Republican control of the House of Representatives and a stronger minority in the Senate, will have any interest in tackling the assault weapons ban.
Asked whether House Speaker John Boehner might back such legislation, spokesman Michael Steel responded in an e-mail: “This is a time for the House and all Americans to come together to mourn our losses and pray for those who are recovering, not a time for politics.”
Other legislation being drafted in the wake of the Giffords shooting includes a bill by Democratic Representative Robert Brady, who wants to expand protections now in place for the president and vice president to members of Congress and other federal officials.
The current law sets fines and jail terms for anyone convicted of threatening to kill, kidnap or inflict bodily harm on the president or vice president of the United States.
Brady spokeswoman Karen Warrington said that the law has withstood questions about free speech guarantees in the U.S. Constitution. “He’s not writing new law; he’s trying to look at legislation” already in place and expand it, Warrington said.
It was uncertain, Warrington said, how many federal workers would be covered in Brady’s legislation.
Editing by Jackie Frank