NRA official to Congress: More gun laws not the answer

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 12:00pm

Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011, will give the opening statement at Wednesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, according to two sources close to Giffords.

It is the first congressional hearing on gun violence since the Connecticut school massacre that left 26 people dead. A top NRA official plans to tell lawmakers Wednesday that new weapons restrictions are not a "serious solution" to the problem.

Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, will be one of five witnesses at the hearing.

Giffords' husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, will also testify.

The hearing comes a few weeks after President Barack Obama's legislative proposals aimed at curbing gun violence after the Newtown shootings, which left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The shooter, Adam Lanza, also killed his mother and himself.

Obama's proposals include a ban on assault-style weapons, a limit of 10 rounds per magazine and universal background checks for anyone buying a gun, whether at a store or in a private sale. Guns sold through private sales are currently exempted from background checks -- the so-called gun show loophole.

LaPierre will tell lawmakers that more gun control laws are not the solution, according to prepared testimony provided by the NRA.

"We need to enforce the thousands of gun laws that are currently on the books," he said in the prepared statement. "Prosecuting criminals who misuse firearms works. Unfortunately, we've seen a dramatic collapse in federal gun prosecutions in recent years."

Federal prosecutions for gun violence plunged by 35% in 2011, according to LaPierre.

"That means violent felons, gang members and the mentally ill who possess firearms are not being prosecuted," he said. "And that's unacceptable."

LaPierre will tell lawmakers to focus on fixing the nation's mental health system.

"We need to look at the full range of mental health issues, from early detection and treatment, to civil commitment laws, to privacy laws that needlessly prevent mental health records from being included in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System," LaPierre said in the statement.

The NRA's membership has spiked by 500,000 people since the Newtown shooting, bringing its number to more than 4.5 million, the group said Wednesday.

In the meantime, Kelly and Giffords have launched Americans for Responsible Solutions to push for gun control.

Kelly said he has not yet endorsed any legislation, but he supports Sen. Dianne Feinstein's bill to revive the expired assault weapons ban. Feinstein, D-California, is a member of the Judiciary Committee.

"We are going to work to pass some reasonable gun violence legislation that addresses universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole and helping with mental health issues, and banning high-capacity magazines," said Kelly, a former astronaut and naval aviator. "Both Gabby and I are of the opinion that semiautomatic assault weapons should be left for the military to use."

And although Kelly has never met the star witness at Wednesday's hearing, he said he believes there are some things he and LaPierre could agree on.

"The NRA does some really good things. They teach people about gun safety, how to handle a firearm -- a lot of what the NRA does is really positive," Kelly said.

Kelly said that despite the Tucson, Arizona, shooting that wounded his wife and killed six others, he and Giffords still support the Second Amendment, which guarantees Americans the right to possess firearms. Kelly said that he was such a gun enthusiast, he used to go to the NRA practice range outside of Washington.

"But we really need to do something about the safety of our kids and our communities. It's gotten really out of hand," he said.

CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report.

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