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GOP Congressman: Ban Guns Near Federal Officials

If the House Homeland Security Committee chairman has his way, the carrying of guns by members of the public would be banned within 1,000 feet of federal officials.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) called for the gun-free zone in the immediate vicinity of federal officials on Tuesday at an appearance in New York City. He made his intentions known at a gun-control news conference at New York City Hall with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a proponent of tougher gun laws, standing by his side.

King said he planned to introduce legislation next week incorporating his proposal. While King is generally conservative on most issues, his record on gun-control has been more mixed. It has earned him a grade of D in the past from the National Rifle Association.

King's proposal is part of a renewed national debate over tougher gun-control laws in the aftermath of the weekend's shooting in which 20 people were wounded, with six killed. Jared Loughner, 22 and who appeared mentally unstable well before the crime, is the alleged gunman.

The congressman framed his idea as not just meant to protect officials but the public as well.

An excerpt from a story in The Hill:

In his speech, King said the legislation was not only for the safety of government officials but also to protect the public. He said elected officials are not necessarily more important than the public but by protecting them in this way, the public would feel safer in meeting federal officials at public events.

"The fact is they do represent the people who elect them, and it's essential if we're going to continue to have contact that the public who are at these meetings are ensured of their own safety," King said.

King's legislation has the potential of placing congressional Republicans in a politically difficult position.

It would clearly diminish current gun rights in a way the NRA has tended to oppose. And most Republican lawmakers and, depending on their districts, even some Democrats, are loathe to run afoul of the gun-rights lobby.

But many lawmakers have been concerned about the safety of themselves and their aides since Saturday's shootings in Tucson and might be more open to King's proposal than they would have been a week ago.

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Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.