Leaders of the National Rifle Association said Sunday that they would fight any new gun restrictions introduced in Congress, and they made clear that they were not interested in working with President Barack Obama to help develop a broad response to the Connecticut school massacre.
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and CEO of the powerful gun lobby, was openly dismissive of a task force established by Obama and led by Vice President Joe Biden that is examining ways to reduce gun violence.
“If it’s a panel that’s 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, adding that the “NRA is not going to let people lose the Second Amendment in this country, which is supported by the overwhelming majority of the American people.”
Some lawmakers acknowledged that the political and fundraising might of the NRA would make Obama’s push for gun restrictions a struggle.
“I have found the statements by the NRA over the last couple of days to be really disheartening, because the statements seem to not reflect any understanding about the slaughter of children” in Newtown, said Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent.
On Friday, LaPierre had said the NRA’s solution to prevent mass shootings like those that have occurred in the last few years — several of them on school campuses — was to put armed guards in schools nationwide. During that briefing, he and the gun group’s president, David Keene, did not directly address proposals to ban assault rifles or otherwise restrict the availability of firearms.
But during a round of appearances on the Sunday talk shows by LaPierre, Keene and Asa Hutchinson, a former Republican congressman from Arkansas who will lead the gun group’s response to the shooting in Newtown, Conn., they made it clear that the NRA opposed all of the gun restrictions now under discussion.
“Look, a gun is a tool. The problem is the criminal,” LaPierre said in the broadcast interview.
LaPierre hardly backed down from his comments Friday, when the NRA broke its weeklong silence on the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
On the question of whether a limit on high-capacity ammunition would reduce the likelihood of mass shootings like the one in Connecticut, LaPierre said in a testy exchange with David Gregory, the host of “Meet the Press,” that “I don’t think it will.”
“I keep saying it, and you just won’t accept it — it’s not going to work. It hasn’t worked,” LaPierre said.
As for the idea of reinstating a ban on so-called assault rifles, which was in place from 1994 to 2004, he said, “I think that is a phony piece of legislation, and I do not believe it will pass for this reason: It’s all built on lies that have been found out.”
The NRA CEO also said: “You want one more law on top of 20,000 laws, when most of the federal gun laws we don’t even enforce?”
Lieberman said the NRA is right in some of the points it makes about the causes of gun violence in America.
“But it’s obviously also true that the easy availability of guns, including military style assault weapons, is a contributing factor,” Lieberman said.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said LaPierre was “so extreme and so tone deaf” that he was making it easier to pass gun legislation.
“Look, he blames everything but guns: movies, the media, President Obama, gun-free school zones, you name it. And the video games, he blames them,” Schumer said.
While the NRA has been criticized sharply by gun-control advocates since it broke its silence about the Connecticut shooting on Friday, it did receive some support from Sen. Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina Republican who also appeared Sunday on “Meet the Press.”
“People where I live, I’ve been Christmas shopping all weekend, have come up to me: ‘Please don’t let the government take my guns away,’ ” Graham said.