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NRA coming to White House: Will there be fireworks?

On Thursday, the nation's biggest gun-rights organization will be represented at a meeting on gun violence with Vice President Joe Biden. The NRA's presence makes both sides look open-minded.

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The marquee event in Biden’s meetings will come Thursday, when a representative of the National Rifle Association (NRA) – the nation’s biggest and best-funded gun-owners’ organization – comes to the White House for the session with gun-rights groups.

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“If there’s going to be fireworks, it’s going to be tomorrow,” says Richard Feldman, president of the Independent Firearm Owners Association, who is also coming to the meeting on Thursday.

Some gun-control advocates were unhappy that the NRA was included, but Mr. Feldman calls it a “win-win” for Biden and the NRA. It makes both look open-minded.

Top NRA official Wayne LaPierre made a rare public statement to the press a week after the Newtown massacre, and proposed the government fund the presence of an armed guard in every school. His body language did not suggest a willingness to meet gun-control advocates part way. A different NRA representative will attend the White House meeting on Thursday.

In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that aired on Dec. 30, Obama did not respond positively to the NRA’s proposal.

“I am not going to prejudge the recommendations that are given to me,” Obama said. But, he added, “I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools.”

Another surprise participant in Thursday’s meeting is Wal-Mart, one of the nation’s biggest gun-sellers, which had initially declined an invitation.

“We underestimated the expectation to attend the meeting on Thursday in person, so we are sending an appropriate representative to participate,” David Tovar, vice president of corporate communications for Wal-Mart, said in a statement.

Even though there appears to be little common ground between the gun-control and gun-rights crowds, analysts of gun politics suggest potential areas of agreement. ”We all want to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals and mentally disturbed people,” says Feldman, a former NRA official.

In addition to the meetings with gun-control and gun-rights groups, Biden’s task force will also meet with representatives of the entertainment and video-game industries. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will meet with parent, teacher, and education groups. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will meet with mental-health and disability advocates.

In addition, senior White House staff have already held and will continue to hold meetings with medical groups, community organizations, child and family advocates, business owners, faith leaders, and others on gun violence, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday.

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