The nation’s largest gun-rights lobby says some participants at its White House meeting seemed more interested in demonizing the Second Amendment than keeping students safe.
The National Rifle Association met with Vice President Joe Biden’s school safety study group on Thursday and afterward said the participants spent most their time on proposals to limit gun rights. The NRA says it, “will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen.”
The politically powerful group — under public pressure since December’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman massacred 20 children and six women — says it will now work with Congress to discuss what works in preventing violence and what does not.
Pledging swift action to curb gun violence, Biden says he will deliver new proposals to President Barack Obama by next Tuesday.
Biden said Thursday that while he had not finalized his recommendations, a consensus was emerging over banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines as well as tightening background checks.
Some of those measures are likely to face opposition from some pro-gun groups, most notably the NRA.
Obama, after the horrific shooting of school children in Newtown, Conn., appointed Biden to lead a task force on preventing gun violence. He set a late January deadline for recommendations, which he pledged to act on swiftly.
The vice president said Thursday that while no recommendations would eliminate all future mass shootings, “there has got to be some common ground, to not solve every problem but diminish the probability.”
The NRA, the nation’s largest gun-rights group, has worked to block gun-control efforts in the past and is opposing any new ones. In the wake of the Newtown shootings, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre rejected efforts to tighten gun laws and instead recommended putting armed guards in all schools.
LaPierre was not scheduled to attend the White House meeting. Instead, the NRA dispatched its top lobbyist, James Baker, who has worked with Biden previously on gun issues.
White House officials recognize it is unlikely the NRA will fully support measures Obama is pushing. But the administration may need to soften the NRA’s opposition if it hopes to rally support from pro-gun lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
The NRA, too, seemed eager to rally its allies in Congress.
“We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment,” the group said in its statement.
“We will now take our commitment and meaningful contributions to members of Congress of both parties who are interested in having an honest conversation about what works — and what does not.”
Biden was also meeting Thursday with sportsmen and wildlife organizations, including Ducks Unlimited, the Outdoor Industry Association and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, as well as the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Firearms Import/Export Roundtable.
Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest firearms seller, will meet separately with Attorney General Eric Holder Thursday along with other retailers such as Bass Pro Shops and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Biden has also said the administration is weighing executive action in addition to recommending legislation by Congress. Those steps could include making gun-trafficking a felony, getting the Justice Department to prosecute people caught lying on gun background-check forms and ordering federal agencies to send data to the National Gun Background Check Database.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says that about 40 percent of gun sales are made without background checks, often at gun shows and over the Internet.
Representatives from the Brady Campaign joined other victims’ groups and gun safety organizations for meetings with Biden on Wednesday. The vice president said the steps the administration is considering could “take thousands of people out of harm’s way” and improve the safety of millions more.
“I want to make it clear that we are not going to get caught up in the notion that unless we can do everything, we’re going to do nothing,” Biden said. “It’s critically important we act.”
The Newtown shootings pushed gun control to the top of Obama’s domestic agenda for the first time during his presidency. He was largely silent on the hot-button political issue after the 2011 shootings in Tucson, Ariz., that killed six people and wounded 12 others, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the Colorado movie theater killing of a dozen people and wounding of many more last July.
The president hopes to announce his administration’s next steps to tackle gun violence shortly after he is sworn in for a second term and has pledged to push for new measures in his State of the Union address.