Norton Wants Guns Banned Near Obama, Cabinet

Guns showing up outside Obama town halls

By Jim Iovino
|  Wednesday, Aug 19, 2009  |  Updated 10:46 AM EDT
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Norton Wants Guns Banned Near Obama, Cabinet

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Protesters like this one at a Pennsylvania town hall could scuttle Obama's health overhaul.

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Images of people carrying guns outside of President Barack Obama's recent health care reform town halls shocked people who didn't realize it was perfectly legal to have a weapon in such close proximity to the president.

Now, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton wants to change that -- both in the District and nationwide.

Norton has asked the Department of Homeland Security and Secret Service to stop people from carrying weapons openly or concealed in and around the areas where the president and cabinet officials appear.

Currently in the District, people are allowed to have a registered handgun in their homes, but not in public. But a recently filed lawsuit could allow residents and visitors to carry concealed guns in public for self-defense throughout D.C., even if the guns are registered elsewhere.

"I seek no change in the local laws of other jurisdictions, and ask only respect for gun laws in my own district," Norton said. "However, it is clear that if the Secret Service can temporarily clear all aircraft from air space when the president is in the vicinity, the agency has the authority to clear guns on the ground that is even closer to the president."

Norton said about 10 to 12 people were seen carrying weapons at Monday's Obama town hall in Arizona. The Brady Campaign, which works to prevent gun violence, issued a statement to MSNBC's First Read after reading reports about guns at the event:

"Bringing loaded firearms to any Presidential event endangers all in attendance. Even though our weak national and state gun laws may allow this dangerous behavior, we should use a little common sense. Individuals carrying loaded weapons at these events require constant attention from police and Secret Service officers, thus stretching their protective efforts even thinner. The possibility that these weapons might be grabbed or stolen or accidentally mishandled increases the risks of serious injury or death to all in attendance.

The National Rifle Association and other 'gun rights' groups need to send a message about 'gun responsibilities' to their members and all gun owners. Loaded weapons at political forums endanger all involved, distract law enforcement, and end up stifling debate. Presidential protesters need to leave their firearms at home -- no exceptions."

It is not clear how Norton's proposed ban on guns near the president and cabinet would be enforced.

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