WASHINGTON -- Long Island Rep. Kathleen Rice Wednesday described a new tactic to try to pass a bill to expand background checks to all commercial sales of guns despite the odds against it: Don't talk about what the legislation is. Explain what it is not.
"This bill is not about restricting rights," said Rice, the freshman Democrat from Garden City. "It's about enforcing the laws we already have."
Rice spoke about the new approach after appearing at her first news conference on a gun-related bill with other supporters from both parties and Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman critically wounded in a 2011 shooting at a constituent event.
To make that point, the bill sponsored by Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) is named The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2015.
The National Rifle Association, however, restated its opposition to background checks for gun buyers and charged that the bill was the beginning of a national registry for gun owners.
"This is just another attempt by anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg and his gun control groups to infringe upon law-abiding citizens' constitutional rights," said Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's legislative arm.
Rice, the successor to well-known gun-control advocate Carolyn McCarthy, who retired after nine terms in Congress, called those claims "nonsense."
"This bill won't prevent law-abiding citizens from buying guns," Rice said. "It won't impose new restrictions on who's allowed to buy guns."
The bill also bans creation of a federal gun registry.
Rice also said the bill simply extends the law already in force requiring licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks to screen out felons, domestic abusers and the mentally ill to commercial sales at gun shows and on the Internet.
The bill is a reintroduction of a measure originally forged as a compromise by a bipartisan pair of senators with NRA "A" ratings in 2013 after the Newtown, Connecticut, school shootings that killed 26 people.
After the NRA opposed the measure, the Senate voted 54-46 for it -- but that was six votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) did not bring up the bill for a floor vote.
The bill faces an uphill battle with both chambers of Congress controlled by Republicans, many of whom oppose such gun-related legislation.
Rice said most people think background checks already are required for gun sales. "When you tell them it's not," she said, "they ask, 'Why not?' "