Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

NRA members, leader at odds on gun checks

LaPierre, Giffords' husband debate

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WASHINGTON -- The National Rifle Association's executive vice-president continued to oppose background checks for all gun purchases despite polls indicating most members of the influential gun rights lobbying group don't share his position.

The NRA's Wayne LaPierre said on Fox News Sunday that background checks for all gun purchases would lead to a national registry of gun owners. Critics say such a registry could lead to taxes on guns or confiscation.

Mark Kelly, a gun owner and husband of Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who survived a 2011 mass shooting, asked LaPierre to listen to his members. He said the current system prevented 1.7 million gun purchases since 1999. However, those potential buyers had other options because many gun sales don't require a background check.

"Members of the NRA tend to be very reasonable on this issue," said Kelly, who also appeared on the Fox show.

As the U.S. Congress responds to the spate of mass shootings in recent years, most notably the December massacre of 20 children and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., U.S. President Barack Obama and some lawmakers are calling for a ban on certain semi-automatic weapons and on high-capacity ammunition magazines. However, calls for expanding background checks appear to have gained the most bipartisan support.

LaPierre said requiring checks for all gun purchases would be a bureaucratic nightmare.

"It's going to affect only the law-abiding people," he said. "Criminals could care less."

LaPierre was pressed about his contention that gun checks would lead to a national registry, when no one from the Obama administration is calling for that.

"And Obamacare wasn't a tax until they needed it to be a tax," LaPierre said, referring to the president's health-care overhaul.

Kelly and LaPierre agreed on one point: More people seeking to buy guns illegally should be prosecuted.

"They should be prosecuted and there should be stiff penalties," Kelly said.

A key player in the coming gun debate in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said on ABC's This Week he's willing to take a look at legislation that would ban certain semi-automatic weapons, but he noted he voted against a ban on such weapons in 1994 because it "didn't make sense."

He was more definitive on the issue of background checks, saying "everyone acknowledges we should do something with background checks."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 4, 2013 A9

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