Bloomberg Calls For Tougher Gun Background Checks After Arizona Shooting

January 12, 2011 Updated: January 12, 2011

NEW YORK—In wake of the Tucson, Arizona shooting on Saturday in which 22-year-old Jared Loughner shot and killed 6 people, wounding 13 others including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a series of steps that would further prevent drug abusers, the mentally ill, and other criminals from readily obtaining guns.

Joined by a long list of mayors from New York state, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, Bloomberg represented over 500 mayors who are part of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition.

Bloomberg pointed fingers at the gaps in the background check system, which allowed both Loughner, who had a history of drug abuse and the Virginia Tech shooter, who had a history of mental illness to obtain guns.

“This isn’t an ideological battle, it is about enforcing the law,” said Bloomberg.

Bloomberg gave several recommendations in hopes of limiting guns from falling into the wrong hands. The mayor says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) needs stronger leadership if it's going to actively fight gun crime.

Bloomberg would also like to see the ATF strengthen its background check system, calling their current definitions of drug abusers and addicts complicated and confusing.

Under the current system, individuals with drug records are prohibited from purchasing guns for one year. Bloomberg suggests it should be five.

In December 2008, Loughner was arrested on a drug charge and had also failed the drug test for entering the U.S. Army.

Bloomberg’s third recommendation is to have federal agencies communicate better with each other, especially when it comes to background checks. He suggests Loughner’s failed drug test in the army should have showed up on his background check.

“The ideas laid out have bipartisan support in our coalition, and we will work to get bipartisan support in Congress,” said Bloomberg.

Congressman Peter King, (R-N.Y.), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, also announced that he will introduce legislation in the coming weeks that would make it illegal for someone to knowingly carry a gun up to 1,000 feet around high-profile elected officials, from the president to federal judges.

“I believe that if we can take a horrible tragedy and attempt to get something good out of it, then all is not lost,” said King.

“None of us are opposed to the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, but there are certain places and certain people, which federal law already says you can’t have a gun, and what we’re talking about is just enforcing the federal laws that are on the books,” said Bloomberg.

When asked why his conservative colleagues might show resistance, Rep. King said many see the passing of a resolution on guns as the first step to taking them away. “We’re making it clear that it’s not the case,” said King.

“This is a federal plague and it requires a federal cure,” said Jersey City, N.J., Mayor Jerramiah Healy.

The Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition is an initiative started by Mayor Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino in 2006 to discuss strategies to end gun violence resulting from illegal guns. The coalition has since grown to include bipartisan support from over 500 mayors in 40 states.