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Mayors, NRA go head-to-head over gun sale background checks

The 800-member group 'Mayors Against Illegal Guns' is running new ads pressuring 15 senators to support gun sale background checks. The National Rifle Association is fighting back.

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The 15 senators targeted in the new mayors group ads include Republicans Jeff Flake of Arizona, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Dan Coats of Indiana, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Susan Collins of Maine, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Dean Heller of Nevada, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. The Democrats are Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

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In the past, the NRA had supported expanded background checks.

But in a speech at the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City last month, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said, “Don't you be fooled.”

“This so-called background check is aimed at one thing – registering your guns,” he warned. “When another tragic ‘opportunity’ presents itself, that registry will be used to confiscate your guns” – a reference to recent mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn.

Also speaking on “Meet the Press,” Mr. LaPierre said of Bloomberg, “He can't spend enough of his $27 billion to impose his will on the American people. He can't buy America."

So far in the congressional fight over gun control, a new ban on military-style assault weapons seems unlikely to go anywhere – although President Obama in his weekend radio address said such a measure “shouldn’t be controversial.”

“They’re common sense,” he said. “They’re supported by a majority of the American people.”

That may be, but the NRA is known to fight hard and personally as one of the toughest special-interest groups in Washington, claiming more than 4 million members, backed financially by the gun industry, and (in the last election) helping finance the campaigns of 261 congressional candidates.

And “after a series of missteps” following the Newtown massacre in which 20 first-graders and six adult staff were killed by a heavily armed gunman at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, The Hill newspaper reports, “the NRA has regained its footing, rallying gun owners and lawmakers against new gun controls in a fierce lobbying effort that appears to be paying dividends on Capitol Hill.”

“Indeed, over the last 100 days, Democrats have grown more divided over Obama's proposed reforms,” The Hill reported Sunday. “An assault weapons ban is on life support and Senate Democrats have failed to entice a single Republican to back universal background checks. Congress also this week solidified four gun-friendly laws as part of legislation to fund the government through September.”

Still, there may be room for maneuvering and compromise on expanded background checks.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a conservative Democrat and gun-rights supporter, is in private talks with the NRA on background checks, Politico reports.

“That the NRA is even talking with Manchin suggests there’s at least some room for negotiation for the group – despite its public posture against tougher gun laws,” according to Politico. “And if successful, a Manchin-NRA deal could draw in enough Republicans and red-state Democrats to defeat an expected GOP filibuster of the overall gun control bill when it hits the floor next month.”

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