Representatives from the National Rifle Association, which opposes new restrictions on firearms, and retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT:US) are among those who’ll meet with an Obama administration panel drafting recommendations on how to stem gun violence.
The NRA, which claims 4 million members and spent $13 million trying to stop President Barack Obama’s re-election, was among the groups invited meet this week with an administration panel led by Vice President Joe Biden, White House press secretary Jay Carney said yesterday.
The organization will be joined at tomorrow’s meeting by a representative of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, which sells firearms, including rifles like the one used at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 people, most of them children, were killed on Dec. 14
Biden, along with other members of Obama’s cabinet, is meeting today with groups representing victims of gun violence and gun-control advocates.
“We look forward to hearing from a variety of organizations, and civic groups and others, who have insights into this problem,” Carney told reporters.
Andrew Arulanandam, an NRA spokesman, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The president has given Biden an end-of-the-month deadline to come up with recommendations to deal with gun violence in the U.S. Since the Connecticut shootings, advocates of more restrictions on firearms have revived long-stalled efforts to push for legislation.
Wal-Mart’s attendance tomorrow signals building pressure for a response. David Tovar, the company’s spokesman, said earlier today that Wal-Mart officials had talked with Biden’s staff and wouldn’t attend the session in Washington because of meetings at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Wal-Mart reversed course shortly afterward.
“We underestimated the expectation to attend the meeting on Thursday in person, so we are sending an appropriate representative to participate,” Tovar said in a statement. “We take this issue very seriously and are committed staying engaged in this discussion as the administration and Congress work toward a consensus on the right path forward.”
Wal-Mart sells firearms in 1,800 of its more than 3,800 U.S. stores, according to the company.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, has proposed a measure requiring background checks for anyone buying large quantities of ammunition.
“There is no rational reason why a person can walk into a store, fill their shopping cart with hundreds of rounds of ammo, pay up, and walk out without so much as giving their name,” Blumenthal said on a conference call with reporters yesterday.
Former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat who was wounded in a 2011 shooting in Tucson that killed six others, said she and her husband, Mark Kelly, were forming a political action committee to push for new gun laws.
“Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources,” they wrote in USA Today yesterday, the second anniversary of the shooting.
The mother of one of those killed in the Tucson shootings, Roxanna Green, is appearing in a TV ad being aired in the Washington area and in U.S. cities where there have been recent mass shootings.
“I have one question for our political leaders: When will you find the courage to stand up to the gun lobby?” Green, who lost her 9-year-old daughter, Christiana, said in the ad by Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The co-chairman of the group is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
As gun-control advocates step up pressure for new laws, a coalition of gun-rights groups is pushing back with a nationwide protest scheduled for Jan. 19, a day before Obama will be sworn in for a second term. The groups are urging gun-rights supporters to show up at firearms stores, gun shows and shooting ranges that day.
“This outpouring of public support is so important for our constitutional safeguards to keep and bear arms,” said Larry Ward, chairman of Gun Appreciation Day and president of Political Media Inc., a Washington-based Republican political consulting firm specializing in online communications.
Obama put Biden in charge of the administration task force days after the Dec. 14 killings in Newtown. The gunman, who fatally shot his mother before going to the school, committed suicide.
The group will review options such as reinstating a ban on military-style assault weapons that expired in 2004, closing loopholes that allow gun buyers to escape background checks and limiting use of high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Beyond firearms restrictions, Biden has said the panel will examine ways to boost mental-health programs in schools and steps to alter a culture in the U.S. that glamorizes guns and violence.
The NRA’s chief executive officer, Wayne LaPierre, last month rejected restrictions on gun ownership and called for posting armed security guards at schools as well as examining the role of violent video games and movies.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he said Dec. 21 in Washington.
The NRA spent $20 million on behalf of federal candidates during the 2012 elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group.
Obama, who supports renewing an expired assault weapon ban, gave Biden’s panel until the end of this month to submit recommendations.
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