WASHINGTON, (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama’s gun-control proposals amount to a war against the gun lobby that will be met in kind, the National Rifle Association chief said.
“All bets are off when a president really wants to go to war with you,” NRA President David Keene told ABC News. “We’re gonna be there and we’re gonna fight it.”
Obama Wednesday announced plans to introduce legislation and work with members of a divided Congress to develop bills to implement as much of his proposal package as possible.
The package includes a ban on new assault weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines and expanded criminal background checks to include all gun sales, closing a longstanding loophole letting buyers avoid such checks by purchasing weapons at gun shows or from private sellers.
An assault weapon is typically a semiautomatic firearm having features similar to those of a military firearm. A magazine is an ammunition storage and feeding device within or attached to a repeating firearm.
Obama also proposed tougher gun-trafficking laws to crack down on the spread of weapons in the United States.
In addition, Obama signed 23 executive orders, which he can do on his own authority, without congressional approval.
Most of the orders sought to fill holes in law enforcement, mental health and school safety — allowing federal research into gun violence, pressing agencies to submit more mental-health records into the existing background-check system and providing funding for schools to hire law enforcement officers.
Obama vowed to rally the nation on the issue — one he largely avoided in his first term.
“I will put everything I’ve got into this, and so will Joe,” he declared, standing next to Vice President Joe Biden in a White House room filled with gun-control advocates and family members of shooting victims.
Keene, whose lobbying organization is the nation’s largest gun-rights group, told ABC NRA members would hold accountable any politicians who “sell them out to some pie-in-the-sky scheme such as the president is proposing.”
In the White House ceremony, which included four children who had written to the president asking for stronger gun laws, Obama encouraged Americans to ask their members of Congress, “What’s more important — doing whatever it takes to get an ‘A’ grade from the gun lobby that funds their campaigns, or giving parents some peace of mind when they drop their child off for first grade?”
Keene told ABC the NRA remembers the 1994 federal assault-weapons ban passed Congress, despite initial lawmaker opposition, in part because of pressure from President Bill Clinton.
Obama noted former President Ronald Reagan, “one of the staunchest defenders of the Second Amendment,” also wrote to Congress in 1994 to urge support for the assault-weapons ban.
Congress passed the 10-year ban Sept. 13, 1994, and Clinton signed it into law the same day. The ban expired 10 years later, as part of the law’s “sunset provision.”
Keene told CBS News banning assault weapons “is not going to accomplish very much” because “they’re not used in very many crimes.”
But Obama said in his announcement no legislation can prevent every tragedy, but “if there is even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.”
Keene also told CBS he thought the proposal to limit high-capacity magazines on assault rifles was all but meaningless.
“If you’re familiar with a rifle of this kind or a rifle fed by a clip [detachable magazine], a shooter — and I’m not talking about an expert — can change the clip like that in less than a second,” Keene said, suggesting restoring magazines to a 10-round limit would have a negligible effect on a typical shooter’s ability to continue shooting.
On Obama’s proposal for expanded criminal background checks on anyone trying to buy a gun, Keene told CNN “the more difficult question” lies in scenarios involving private sales.
“What if you and I are neighbors and you bought a new shotgun and you say, ‘Dave, I don’t want the old one anymore, would you like it?’ And I say, ‘Sure, I’ll buy it.’ There’s where you get into the question of how do you enforce it? How do you do it?”
When CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer suggested such situations are routinely resolved when people sell cars to each other — the new owner is legally required to register the car — Keene responded, “Your right to a car is not guaranteed by an amendment to the Constitution.”