By Don Lee Tribune Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — The president of the National Rifle Association expressed confidence Sunday that Congress will not pass a new ban on assault weapons, a major aim of gun-control proponents after last month’s killing of 20 schoolchildren in Connecticut.
“I would say that the likelihood is that they are not going to be able to get assault weapons ban through this Congress,” David Keene said on CNN’s “State Of The Union.”
Keene’s comments come two days before Vice President Joe Biden is expected to issue recommendations to President Barack Obama on reducing gun violence, and as gun stores in many areas report a significant increase in sales.
Biden’s focus has been on requiring universal background checks for gun sales and on limiting sales of high-capacity ammunition clips,
But administration officials have indicated that a ban on assault weapons could also be proposed. Obama has endorsed renewing such a ban, which was passed by Congress in 1994 but expired a decade later.
Congress is showing a new willingness to restrict production and sales of certain firearms, with some pro-gun members speaking out for the first time against the spread of assault weapons.
It is from clear whether there’s enough support, particularly among Republicans, to approve a broad ban on such military-style guns.
“I think we have the possibility, but it’s going to be difficult,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said on CNN. Prospects are better for Congress to push through restrictions on high-capacity magazines and expanded background checks, he said.
Biden met with NRA officers last week, but Keene described the meeting as disingenuous, saying that the administration had already made up its mind.
Keene insisted that new measures on assault weapons, as well as on high-volume magazines, would not prevent gun violence. He said the focus should be on preventing mentally ill people from buying guns.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., disagreed with Keene’s assessment that the current Congress would not take action on assault weapons.
“No, I think he’s wrong,” Murphy said on CNN. Saying that he believed such a ban would have prevented the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Murphy said: “Newtown fundamentally changed things. The NRA doesn’t get this.”