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NRA leaders, on talk shows, rebuke calls for broad gun control

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 24, 2017. Credit: Getty Images / Win McNamee

Leaders of the National Rifle Association on Sunday talk show appearances criticized those calling for gun control measures a week after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history for politicizing the issue, while Democrats pressed for legislative action.

The NRA on Thursday surprised many when it issued a statement calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review whether “bump stocks” — accessories used to convert rifles into rapid-fire machine guns — comply with federal law. NRA officials also said devices enabling semiautomatic rifles to function as fully automatic should conform to additional regulations.

Republican lawmakers have signaled support for regulating the bump stock accessory that police said gunman Stephen Craig Paddock used during the Oct. 1 rampage during a country music festival in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and more than 500 wounded.

But NRA officials on Sunday rebuked elected officials’ calls for further reforms.

“Our concern is that all this focus on devices takes away the tension from the underlying behavior, and until we address that, these things are going to continue to happen,” NRA executive director Chris Cox said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“We don’t believe that bans have ever worked on anything. What we’ve said has been very clear — that if something transfers a semiautomatic to function like a fully automatic, then it ought to be regulated differently,” Cox said. “Fully automatics are regulated differently in this country. If something copies a semiautomatic into a fully automatic, then those should be regulated as well.”

NRA executive vice president and chief executive Wayne LaPierre, speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” called for better enforcement from the ATF and did not directly answer host John Dickerson’s questions about whether he supports congressional legislation. “It’s illegal to convert a semiautomatic to a fully automatic. ATF needs to do its job.”

LaPierre added, “We think ATF ought to do its job, look at this and draw a bright line ... It’s an interpretive issue and they need to get the job done.”

“For the people that are trying to politicize this tragedy, I would say this: There are monsters like this monster out there everyday,” LaPierre said, referring to Paddock. “There are menaces out there every day. People want to be able to protect themselves, that’s why they support this freedom.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), speaking on CNN’s “State of The Union,” said he would support legislation with a sole focus on the bump and stock weapons, but he called for broader reforms in the future.

Murphy, who has advocated for gun control on behalf of the victims in the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, acknowledged that “this is the first time that the gun lobby has shown willingness to come to the table, and I think that’s in part because Americans just simply do not accept mass shooting after mass shooting happening, and Congress doing absolutely nothing.”

In Newtown, Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot 20 children who were 6 or 7 years old and six adult school staff. He also shot and killed his mother while she slept inside their Newtown home before going to the school where he carried out the massacre and then committed suicide as first responders arrived.

Murphy noted the bump stock regulation “is a fairly small change, and if we really want to have a downward trajectory on the number of mass shootings and the number of gun deaths every single day, you’ve to go far beyond just clarifying that people shouldn’t have automatic weapons in this country.”

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