By Jill Colvin
CITY HALL — In the wake of Saturday's grisly shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined officials from across the region Tuesday calling for new federal measures to keep guns out of the hands of potential killers.
"The more we learn the more it becomes clear that this case is fundamentally about a mentally ill drug abuser who had access to guns who shouldn’t have," said Bloomberg, a long-time advocate against illegal weapons. "As this case makes terribly clear, deadly gaps [in the nation's gun laws] still remain."
Jared Loughner, 22, was arraigned in Arizona Monday after allegedly shooting Giffords point-blank in the head during a massacre that left six others dead, including the 9-year-old granddaughter of ex-Mets and Yankee manager Dallas Green, according to reports.
Loughner had reportedly been rejected by the military because of drug problems, but was still able to buy a gun.
Bloomberg and other members of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition outlined a series of measures to close loopholes they said allow drug abusers to continue purchasing guns, including strengthening "complicated and confusing" background check regulations.
The coalition, led by Bloomberg, now includes more than 500 mayors promoting tougher federal, state, and local gun rules.
The group also called for better information sharing between the military and FBI and called on federal officials to appoint a new director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which has been without one for four and a half years.
"This isn’t an ideological battle. It is about enforcing the law, pure and simple," Bloomberg said.
Rep. Peter King, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, also announced that he is planning to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to make it a federal crime to knowingly carry a gun within 1,000 feet of the president, vice president, members of Congress, cabinet officials and federal judges.
"It's essential if we're going to be able to continue to have contact and to have conversation between the public and the elected officials that the public that is at these meetings can be assured of their own safety," he said.
He also said members of Congress will likely begin informing local police when they hold events. It will then be up to police to decide what level of security, if any, is needed, he said.
Asked if President Barack Obama is doing enough to back their fight for tightened gun laws, Bloomberg did not criticize.
"The president has been speaking out," Bloomberg said. "He can’t speak loudly enough."
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio praised the mayor and echoed his call for gun control.
"We must heed one of the clearest lessons of Saturday’s shooting in Tucson, Arizona: there are too many guns in violent hands," he said in a statement. "The assassination attempt on Congresswoman Giffords and the murder of six bystanders should be a rallying moment for this country to adopt more commonsense gun reforms."
Progressive groups, including the NYC Chapter of The National Lawyers Guild and Queer Rising will hold a candle light vigil in Union Square Tuesday at 7 p.m. in response to the shooting, which some have tried to blame at least partially on heated political rhetoric.
On Monday, officials across the city observed a minute of silence at 11 a.m. to mourn Saturday's attack.
Flags at City Hall remain at half-staff.