National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre said yesterday that gun registration and licensing of gun owners key goals of yesterday’s “Million Mom March” would be tantamount to a “controlled burn of the Second Amendment.
“And setting fire to freedom should never be the answer,” Mr. LaPierre, executive vice president of the 3 and 1/2 million member NRA, said yesterday in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in which he took a sharp punch at Vice President Al Gore.
“Al Gore and all of his firearms-hating crowd … ought to get their hands off the matches, because the American people don’t want a constitutional arsonist in the White House. They want their freedoms protected. They want the laws enforced,” the NRA’s top staff official said.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, New York Democrat, who took part in the march, said on NBC she supports the registration and licensing goals. But asked if they are “politically viable” at this time, she said, “No.”
“After today, maybe for the future, we’ll see that,” Mrs. Maloney said on “Meet the Press.” In the meantime, she said, the two sides in the gun control debate should be working together to come up with ways to reduce firearms violence, and there should be better enforcement of existing federal gun laws. The latter is an argument the NRA has made repeatedly.
It’s not clear if yesterday’s march will spark any movement in a stalemate that has existed for months in Congress over provisions in a proposed gun safety law. President Clinton has repeatedly asked Republicans and Democrats to try to work out their differences.
But Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, who also appeared on NBC yesterday, contended Mr. Clinton really “doesn’t want this issue resolved.”
“He wants it to remain a political football. He wants it to remain an issue going into the campaign,” Mr. Barr said.
The heart of the disagreement between Democrats and Republicans about the gun safety bill is the length of time that should be allowed for background checks of those who buy firearms at gun shows. Democrats say 72 hours are needed to do a thorough background check. Republicans believe 24 hours would be sufficient.
Mr. Barr was asked about a compromise being put forward that would set 24-hour background checks for 95 percent of people who try to buy guns at gun shows, but would require three-day background checks for the other 5 percent.
“If you say you’re going to give them up to three working days, which means six days with a three-day weekend, then you are going to put gun shows out of business, and that is the real agenda: gun control and eradication of handguns by these people,” the Georgia Republican said.
Mr. LaPierre, who also appeared on CNN’s “Late Edition” and CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said on NBC he finds it ironic the government says it needs more time to do background checks of “these really bad people.”
“They have no prosecutions of any of these people. They’re all walking the streets of America tonight,” the NRA official said.
Mr. Barr and television personality Rosie O’Donnell, who was master of ceremonies at yesterday’s Million Mom March and rally, offered diametrically opposed observations as to the number of guns that are bought at gun shows. “Only about 2 percent of firearms are ever purchased at gun shows,” Mr. Barr said on NBC.
But Miss O’Donnell, who appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” said, “The fact is, most of the guns that are purchased are purchased at gun shows … where they don’t have the checks they have in stores.”