The wake of a violent tragedy is an appropriate time for reflection, investigation, prayer, and the promotion of healing.  It is a particularly inappropriate time for political opportunism.  After last weekend’s tragedy in Arizona, Congress should put the breaks on any desire to ram through gun-control legislation that will neither solve the perceived problems in federal law nor prevent any future assaults on public officials.  Observation teaches us that in the wake of crisis, politicians’ instinctive reaction is to check the legislative box and claim that they have solved a problem by passing legislation – any legislation.  More often than not, however, such knee-jerk legislation fails to deter future bad actors and creates more problems than solutions.

Despite this reality, politicians on both sides of the aisle are already rushing to the floor in Congress to announce legislation supposedly designed to “prevent” the next madman from inflicting harm on our elected officials or other innocent Americans.  Representative Peter King (R-NY) was one of the first to offer up a hasty legislative reaction to the Arizona tragedy, proposing a new law that would “make it illegal to knowingly carry a gun within 1,000 feet of certain high-profile government officials.” 

While King has yet to develop specific legislative language for the bill, he asserts that such a law “would give federal, state, and local law enforcement a better chance to intercept potential gunmen before they pull the trigger.”  In the abstract, this overarching goal may play well politically and receive positive media reaction in the wake of the horrible atrocity in Tucson.  In reality, however, King’s provision is likely to prove impossible to enforce, raise a number of constitutional objections, and provide little in the way of additional protection for government officials.

As many commentators have already pointed out, it seems extremely unwieldy to enforce a law that provides a roving 1,000-foot gun-free bubble around every so-called “high-profile government official.”  Such a piece of legislation literally and figuratively creates a moving target for both law-enforcement officials and law-abiding citizens.  Imagine being a police officer tasked with securing such a gun-free bubble.  Do you set up a continuously moving perimeter around the official?  Do you attempt to frisk or question every person who enters the bubble?  Application of the law is no less clumsy from the average citizen’s perspective.  An unsuspecting citizen at one end of a street could be window shopping with a legally-licensed firearm only to come into a public official’s 1,000-foot bubble as he or she meanders down the same sidewalk.  Likewise, a hunter or recreational gun user at a firing range could be subject to criminal liability for exercising their lawful Second Amendment rights because they were innocently rubbing elbows with a public official.

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