Since the Newtown, Connecticut shooting massacre seven weeks ago, representatives from the NRA decided that their approach would be one of aggression, not backing down an inch from their opposition to any call for gun control regulations, not even for universal background checks, which polls show the American public overwhelming supporting.
On Fox News Sunday, NRA executive director Wayne LaPierre kept up that belligerent front, getting into a testy exchange with host Chris Wallace, particularly regarding the organization's recent ad that alleged that President Obama was a hypocrite for having his children in schools with armed security while not advocating that for everyone else.
WALLACE: Mr. LaPierre, do you regret putting up that ad?
LAPIERRE: The point of ad was this — it wasn't picking on the president's kids. The president not —
WALLACE: It mentions them.
LAPIERRE: The president's kids are safe and we are thankful for it. The point of that ad —
WALLACE: They also face a threat that most children do not face.
LAPIERRE: Tell that to people in Newtown. Tell that to people —
WALLACE: Do you really think the president's children are the same kind of target as every school child in America? That's ridiculous and you know it, sir.
LAPIERRE: You know, unfortunately, I think there are parents all over the school that think — all over the country that think their kids are entitled to the same amount of protection when they go to school, and they want —
WALLACE: So, they should have Secret Service?
LAPIERRE: No, but what they should have is police officers or certified armed security in those schools to keep people safe. If something happens, the police — despite all the good intentions, is 15 to 20 minutes. It's too long. It's not going to help those kids.
Certified armed security in schools, just like —
WALLACE: But that's not going to protect them in the shopping mall, in the movie theater, on the streets.
LAPIERRE: Which is why we need to do everything else I'm talking about. Let's enforce the federal gun laws which we did not do now against gangs with guns, felons with guns — my gosh, in the shadow of where we are sitting now, gangs are out there in Washington, D.C. You can buy drugs. You can buy guns. They are trafficking in 13-year-old girls —
Earlier on the show, Mark Kelly, the husband of Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona Democratic Congresswoman who was shot and nearly killed in January of 2011 by Jared Loughner,was asked what he would say to LaPierre. He said that the NRA needs to get behind a universal background check.
KELLY: Well, you know, certainly, he's going to say that background checks don't work. But, that is not true. I mean, he's going to tell you that in a couple minutes.
Since 1999, 1.7 million people were prevented from getting a firearm because they had a criminal record or a history of mental illness, we have stopped those people from getting a gun. Now, we've got to make sure they don't have a second option to get the gun and that's getting the gun from a private seller or the gun show loophole without having a background check. We need to close that loophole.
So, I hope Mr. LaPierre can think about what would his members want. You know, 74 percent of NRA members think it is a very reasonable thing to do, to have a background check before buying a gun.
So what I would tell Mr. LaPierre, is I hope he'd listen to his membership, because members of the NRA tend to be very reasonable on this issue.
LaPierre later responded that there are problems in trying to address selling guns to those with mental health issues:
LAPIERRE: You know, Chris, I have all the respect in the world for Captain Kelly and what happened to his family should never happen to any family, we all want to stop it. But, let me talk about the proposal President Obama and people like Mayor Bloomberg are putting forward.
One, let me answer your question: I don't think you can say that those 1.7 million people have been stopped from getting a gun at all, because the government didn't prosecute virtually any of them. They let them walk in, they were denied and let them walk out.
And who really thinks if they wanted to commit a crime they didn't go on and get a gun?
WALLACE: I don't know, seems to me if 1.7 million people were denied. I understand the hardened criminal but the disturbed person, the Adam Lanza in Newtown, the James Holmes in Aurora, Colorado, those are not hardened criminals. And if they're stopped from getting a gun by universal background check, won't that make a difference?
LAPIERRE: You know, the instant check was actually the NRA's proposal. We offered as an amendment to the Brady Bill, to put it on dealers, and I have been in this fight for 20 years and we supported it and we put it on the books.
But, I have finally become convinced after fighting to get the mental records computerized for 20 years, and watching the mental health lobby, the HIPAA laws and the AMA opposed it, I don't think it's going to happen. I mean, the fact is, that check now, these people are not —
WALLACE: But it worked enough that 1.7 people were denied. I mean, I completely agree with you — I mean, as Captain Kelly pointed out, Jared Loughner was able to pass the test and there are holes in it, but it doesn't mean, because it's not perfect doesn't mean that it doesn't —
LAPIERRE: Well, the hole in it is the fact I've been — we have been fighting 20 years to get the records computerized and I know what goes on behind the scenes in this town, they won't do it. The mental health lobby won't do it. The HIPAA laws won't do it.
It's not going to — I wishing it would happen. We are all for it but it's not.