National Rifle Association (NRA) CEO Wayne LaPierre speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 15, 2013. (Photo credit NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Jackie Kucinich and Paul Singer, USA TODAY
National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre told a conservative gathering Friday that expanded background checks for gun purchases will simply serve as a registry of legal gun owners so the government can tax or take those guns.
Congress is considering expanding background checks in the wake of several recent mass shootings that have launched a new debate about gun control. The federal government is banned by law from creating a registry of gun owners.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, LaPierre said, "They've offered nothing new" that would protect schools or citizens. Instead, he said, gun-control advocates "were just waiting for an unspeakable tragedy" - such as the shootings at a Connecticut elementary school in December - so they could trot out ideas they have been pushing for years.
A bipartisan group of senators, led by Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has been trying to develop compromise legislation that would extend federal background checks to nearly every gun purchase. They have been unable to craft a deal that would satisfy negotiating partner Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., so Schumer, along with Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., have been looking for other Republican support for a bill.
LaPierre said people with mental health problems who pose the greatest threats "will never be part of that check" because health care privacy laws will prevent their medical information from being included in the background check system.
LaPierre mocked a video from the Department of Homeland Security suggesting that someone threatened by a shooter should grab a pair of scissors or other office supplies to defend themselves. To protect schools, "we recommend a trained professional with a gun. They recommend scissors. And they say we are crazy," LaPierre said.
Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, one of several bills the committee has approved for consideration by the full Senate. The committee has also approved legislation that would provide funding for schools to increase security and to strengthen penalties for people who buy guns and transfer them to people ineligible to buy them.