Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, is one of five witnesses scheduled to testify Wednesday at the first Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun-related violence in 14 months. It is a setting likely to set the tone on how Congress proceeds on gun-control legislation following the Newtown, Conn., school shooting in December that left 26 people dead, plus the gunman and his mother.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., said he expects the hearing to help lawmakers eventually draft a new gun-control bill.
"I'm tired about all the people who keep talking about all the legislation they have. I thought it might be nice for someone to actually have a hearing and do some legislation," Leahy told reporters Tuesday.
As senators prepare to write new gun laws, LaPierre will be joined at the witness table by Mark Kelly, the husband of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was seriously wounded in a January 2011 assassination attempt. The couple support Second Amendment rights, but they are leading a new political organization pushing for stricter gun laws.
The NRA released LaPierre's prepared testimony Tuesday. In it, he reaffirms the group's opposition to a new federal ban on military-style assault weapons and to proposals mandating federal background checks for most, if not all, gun buyers.
"Law-abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent or deranged criminals," according to LaPierre's prepared testimony. "Nor do we believe the government should dictate what we can lawfully own and use to protect our families."
"Proposing more gun control laws - while failing to enforce the thousands we already have - is not a serious solution to reducing crime," La Pierre said in the testimony.
Wednesday's hearing will serve as a reunion for LaPierre, the public face of the NRA for more than two decades, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a senior member of the judiciary panel who is pushing for a new ban on more than 150 military-style firearms.
"I don't want to get into a back-and-forth with Wayne LaPierre," Feinstein said Tuesday. "He wants one thing, I want an entirely different thing. He's there for gun people, to allow them to have these guns regardless. They have fought virtually every kind of regulation. The time has come to change course, and the time has come to see what makes people safe."
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