The president of the National Rifle Association dismissed the idea that his group has much influence on lawmakers in an interview with NBC host Matt Lauer on Friday.
“I don’t know that the NRA is that powerful,” said David Keene, whose organization spent $2.2 million in lobbying last year. “I do think that those Americans who believe strongly in the Second Amendment and their right to own privately and use firearms for legitimate purposes is a huge number of people who really care about these issues.”
The NRA had a seat at the table earlier this week in a meeting with President Barack Obama’s task force on the issue of mass shootings.
But the organization has complained that the task force, led by Vice President Joe Biden, was focusing more on “an agenda to attack the Second Amendment” than on improving school safety. Biden said earlier this week that the president is also considering the use of an executive order on the matter.
“Why shouldn’t the American people ask both sides to compromise?” Lauer asked Keene. “Yes, you want increased security in schools. You want the proliferation of violence in the media and gaming industry to come down, and you want to deal with the mentally ill. But if we say yes to that, or if the president says yes to that, why doesn’t he have a right to say to you, ‘Okay, give a little on things like background checks.’?”
According to Slate, surveys have shown that most NRA members support the idea of increasing background checks for gun ownership. But Keene would not acknowledge that thought.
“If you’re looking at the problem, which is to prevent this sort of thing, what you want to do is do those things that will actually make a difference,” Keene said. “We have a profound disagreement with this administration, first of all, on what would make a difference. We don’t think that a ban on so-called assault weapons, which hasn’t worked in the past, is gonna work this time. We think many of those proposals are basically feel-good proposals, and what we really need to do is get to the question of why this is happening and what can be done about it.”
Think Progress reported on Friday that, contrary to Keene’s claim, mass shootings like the ones in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut, have increased since the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban in 2004.
Watch Keene’s interview with Lauer, aired Friday, January 11, 2013, below.