Universal background checks on people buying guns wouldn’t be effective, Wayne LaPierre, chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association, said during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
“It’s a fraud to call it universal,” LaPierre said in the interview broadcast yesterday. “It’s never going to be universal. The criminals aren’t going to comply with it.”
Congress is debating how to reduce gun violence after a Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, left 20 children and six school employees dead. President Barack Obama said he backs a ban on sales of assault weapons, a proposal that faces opposition in Congress even as a majority of the public supports it.
LaPierre and Republicans including Senator John Cornyn of Texas have said current laws aren’t properly enforced. Teaching responsible gun ownership, arming security guards in schools and prosecuting criminals can curb violence, LaPierre has said.
LaPierre said on Fox that “if you limit the American public’s access to semi-automatic technology, you limit their ability to survive.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on ABC’s “This Week” that he supported expanding background checks.
“We need to increase that,” said Reid, a Nevada Democrat. “I’m still a supporter of the Second Amendment, but you can do things like that.”
Mark Kelly, an astronaut and husband of former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat who survived a gunshot to the head in 2011, said during the Fox show that broadening background checks would keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, criminals and terrorists.
“Common sense tells me that if it is much more difficult for criminals and the mentally ill” to obtain weapons, then “it will save lives,” said Kelly.
Kelly, Reid and Obama all touted their own familiarity with guns this weekend. The White House released a photo of Obama skeet-shooting at Camp David last August.
Reid said that “I don’t hunt anymore, but I did. I’ve got lots of guns.”
“My dad killed himself, shot himself with a gun,” Reid said on ABC. “So I know a lot about guns.”
Kelly, a former Navy captain, said, “I spent 25 years in the military and I know the value of having an assault weapon. It’s to kill a lot of people very quickly.”
Kelly said that 1.7 million people have been prevented from buying weapons due to background checks since 1999. Some have been able to get around the rejection by buying weapons at gun shows or from private sellers.
“We have to make sure they don’t have a second way of getting a gun,” Kelly said.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, introduced a bill on Jan. 24 to ban certain assault weapons and limit high- capacity magazines to 10 rounds. It would exempt all assault weapons legally possessed prior to passage of the law and exclude more than 2,200 hunting and sporting rifles. A 1994 assault-weapons ban, signed by then-President Bill Clinton, expired in 2004.
Jared Lee Loughner fired 31 bullets in 15 seconds in the Tucson, Arizona, shooting two years ago that injured Giffords and killed six other people. He was tackled while reloading. Kelly said limiting the magazines to 10 rounds would have stopped Loughner sooner.
In 2011, federal weapons prosecutions per capita were down 35 percent from their peak during the previous administration, LaPierre said during a Jan. 30 congressional hearing where Giffords told Congress “you must act” to curb gun violence.
To contact the reporters on this story: Joshua Zumbrun in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Alexander Kowalski in New York at email@example.com
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