- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 3, 2013

As gun-control proponents increasingly downplay a proposed assault weapons ban to focus instead on background checks, Wayne LaPierre made clear Sunday the National Rifle Association’s position: No new gun laws.

Speaking one day before President Obama travels to Minneapolis to make another plea for his embattled gun-control package, Mr. LaPierre said the NRA opposes even the proposed expansion of background checks for gun purchases that has become the focus of the debate for some compromise-minded Democrats.

Mr. LaPierre, the NRA’s CEO and executive vice president, said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” that background checks would be the first step toward a national gun registry — a prospect long feared and vigorously opposed by supporters of the Second Amendment.

“I think what they will do is, they will turn this universal check on the law-abiding into a universal registry of law-abiding people,” Mr. LaPierre said. “We ought to quit calling it right now a ‘universal’ check. Criminals aren’t going to comply with it. They could care less.”

When host Chris Wallace suggested that none of the current gun-control proposals under consideration on Capitol Hill would go that far, Mr. LaPierre said he doesn’t trust the Obama administration.

“And ‘Obamacare’ wasn’t a tax until they needed it to be a tax, was it? I don’t think you can trust these people,” he said.

The head of the nation’s most powerful gun-rights lobby doesn’t give the president’s ambitious slate of gun-control proposals much chance of becoming law.

“I think the majority of the American public sees through this and want the current laws enforced. They don’t want more laws imposed on what is only going to be the law-abiding,” Mr. LaPierre said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, appearing Sunday on “This Week,” was optimistic about the background check — less so about the ban on so-called assault weapons.

“I think that everyone acknowledges we should do something with background checks. Universal background checks,” he said.

“I didn’t vote for the assault weapons [ban] last time because it didn’t make sense, but I’ll take a look at it.”

On limiting high-capacity clips, the Nevada Democrat, a strong Second Amendment rights supporter, said, “Let’s see.”

Mr. Reid made his remarks as Democrats increasingly downplay the assault-weapons ban that was the highlight of last month’s anti-gun-violence package put together by the president’s hand-picked task force, headed by Vice President Joseph R. Biden, in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting massacre in December.

Mr. Biden said in a Jan. 24 Internet forum that the limits on clips and magazine sizes are more important than the assault weapons ban.

On Sunday, former astronaut Mark Kelly said the universal background check has the support of gun owners such as himself and his wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona — and should be supported by the NRA as well.

Mr. Kelly, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” said he would like Mr. LaPierre to “listen to his membership.”

“Seventy-four percent of NRA members think [background checks are] a very reasonable thing to do,” Mr. Kelly said.

Amid the back-and-forth on gun control this weekend, the White House on Saturday unexpectedly released a photo of Mr. Obama, gun to shoulder, getting in some target practice in a photo dated Aug. 4.

The president, in a recent interview with The New Republic, said he and guests at the presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains go skeet shooting “all the time,” prompting much online derision and outright skepticism.

Critics of the president contend that the comment and the photo are transparent attempts to ingratiate the president with gun owners.

The NRA, responding to the skeet-shooting photo, said: “One picture does not erase a lifetime of supporting every gun ban and every gun-control scheme imaginable.”

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