independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Gun law won't make it past Congress, NRA tells Obama

The powerful US gun lobby has said it has enough support in Congress to block a law that would ban assault weapons, despite promises from the White House and senior Democrats to make such a measure a reality.

Senators plan to introduce a bill that would ban assault weapons and limit the size of ammunition magazines, like the one used in the December shooting massacre that killed 27 people, most of them children, in a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has promised to push for a renewal of expired legislation.

The National Rifle Association ( NRA), the influential gun rights lobbying group, has so far prevented passage of another assault weapons ban like the one that expired in 2004. But some lawmakers say the Newtown tragedy has transformed the country, and Americans are ready for stricter gun laws.

President Barack Obama has made gun control a top priority. And Vice-President Joe Biden is expected to give Mr Obama a comprehensive package of recommendations tomorrow by a task force he headed for curbing gun violence.

Still, the NRA has faith that Congress would prevent a new weapons ban.

"When a president takes all the power of his office, if he's willing to expend political capital, you don't want to make predictions. You don't want to bet your house on the outcome. But I would say that the likelihood is that they are not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress," NRA President David Keene said.

Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, responded with a flat out "no" when asked on CBS television's 'Face the Nation' whether Congress would pass a ban on assault weapons.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a lifelong member of the NRA, has said everything should be on the table to prevent another tragedy like Newtown. But he assured gun owners he would fight for gun rights at the same time.

Rights

"I would tell all of my friends in NRA, I will work extremely hard and I will guarantee you there will not be an encroachment on your Second Amendment rights," Mr Manchin said. The Second Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms.

The NRA's deep pockets help bolster allies and punish lawmakers who buck them. The group spent at least $24m (€17.9m) in the 2012 elections – $16.8m (€12.5m) through its political action committee and nearly $7.5m (€5.6m) through its affiliated Institute for Legislative Action.

Separately, the NRA spent some $4.4m (€3.2m) through July 1 to lobby Congress. Mr Keene insists the group represents its members and not just gun manufacturers, though he said the NRA would like industry to contribute more money.

"We know what works and what doesn't work. And we're not willing to compromise on people's rights when there is no evidence that doing so is going to accomplish the purpose," Mr Keene said.

The NRA, instead, is pushing for measures that would keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill – until a person gets better.

Irish Independent

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