Unwavering National Rifle Association opposes any new gun restrictions

By Kevin Freking

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Dec. 23 2012 2:31 p.m. MST

"It's going to be a battle. But the president, I think, and vice president, are really ready to lead the fight," he said.

Obama has said he wants proposals on reducing gun violence that he can take to Congress in January, and after the Dec. 14 shootings, he called on the NRA to join the effort. The president has asked Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and pass legislation that would end a provision that allows people to purchase firearms from private parties without a background check. Obama also has indicated that he wants Congress to pursue the possibility of limiting high-capacity magazines.

If Obama's review is "just going to be made up of a bunch of people that, for the last 20 years, have been trying to destroy the Second Amendment, I'm not interested in sitting on that panel," LaPierre said.

The NRA has tasked former Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., to lead a program designed to use volunteers from the group's 4.3 million members to help guard children.

Hutchinson said the NRA's position was a "very reasonable approach" that he compared to the federal air marshal program that places armed guards on flights.

"Are our children less important to protect than our air transportation? I don't think so," said Hutchinson, who served as an undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security when it was formed.

Hutchinson said schools should not be required to use armed security. LaPierre also argued that local law enforcement should have final say on how the security is put into place, such as where officers would be stationed.

Democratic lawmakers in Congress have become more adamant about the need for stricter gun laws since the shooting. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California is promising to push for a renewal of expired legislation that banned certain weapons and limited the number of bullets a gun magazine could hold to 10. NRA officials made clear the legislation is a non-starter for them.

"It hasn't worked," LaPierre said. "Dianne Feinstein had her ban and Columbine occurred."

There also has been little indication from Republican leaders that they'll go along with any efforts to curb what kind of guns can be purchased or how much ammunition gun magazines can hold.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., noted that he had an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in his home. He said America would not be made safer by preventing him from buying another one. As to gun magazine limits, he said he can quickly reload by putting in a new magazine.

"The best way to interrupt a shooter is to keep them out of the school, and if they get into the school, have somebody who can interrupt them through armed force," Graham said.

LaPierre also addressed other factors that he said contribute to gun violence in America, but he would not concede that the types of weapons being used are part of the problem.

He was particularly critical of states, which he said are not placing the names of people into a national database designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill. He said some states are not entering names into the system and 23 others are only putting in a small number of records.

The American Psychiatric Association responded to LaPierre's comments by saying that he seemed to conflate mental illness with evil at several points.

"People who are clearly not mentally ill commit violent crimes and perform terrible acts every day," said Dr. James Scully, chief executive of the trade group. "Unfortunately, Mr. LaPierre's statements serve only to increase the stigma around mental illness and further the misconception that those with mental disorders are likely to be dangerous."

Associated Press writer Adam Goldman contributed to this report.

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