The Great Conversation about gun violence in America takes a big step Thursday as representatives of the gun rights community, including the National Rifle Association, sit down with Vice President Biden and his gun violence task force.
But before the meeting began, the NRA made it clear one subject is off limits: new gun laws. In keeping with the organization’s hardline stance following the Newtown shooting, the NRA signaled Thursday morning that while any subject is on the table when it comes to preventing gun deaths, new gun regulations are a non-starter.
“The NRA is hearing not just from Beltway elites and the chattering class, but real Americans all over the country that are hoping the NRA is not going to compromise on any of the principles of the Second Amendment, nor are we going to support banning guns,” an NRA official told Politico. “But we’re willing to listen.”
The official told Politico “We are willing to talk to policymakers about any reasonable proposals and plans.” However it seems clear from the NRA’s messaging before Thursday’s meeting that “reasonable” does not include limits on magazine capacity, semi-automatic weapons or other gun regulations reportedly under consideration by Biden’s task force and other politicians working on gun violence after Newtown. On Meet The Press Dec. 23, NRA vice president Wayne LaPierre rejected those ideas as well as the very concept of the so-called “gun show loophole.”
It’s not clear if other gun rights advocates in the room with Biden Thursday will toe the NRA line. A spokesperson for the National Sports Shooting Foundation, the Newtown, Conn.-based group focused on protecting the rights of recreational shooters, told TPM Wednesday his group is playing its cards close to its vest ahead of the meeting with Biden’s task force.
“We are participating in the meeting being conducted by Vice President Biden and may have more to say at the appropriate time,” NSSF spokesperson Mike Bazinet said. “We are not at present providing any additional comment.”
The NRA, on the other hand, has made it perfectly clear where it stands on the talk of gun control. Group president David Keene told a Brooklyn podcast Wednesday that the White House is essentially leveraging the deaths of 20 children in Newtown to further its longstanding anti-gun agenda.
“I think they’re being disingenuous. I think that they’ve seen this as an opportunity to go after the Second Amendment, which they’ve wanted to do for years, if not decades,” Keene said. “And I think they’re going to do everything they can to strip Americans of their right to keep and bear arms, to essentially make the Second Amendment meaningless.”
Still, the fact that the NRA is showing up at the White House at all could be seen as an acknowledgment of gun control momentum by the nation’s largest gun lobby. The NRA rejected a White House invitation in March 2011 during a brief discussion of new gun regulations following the shooting in Tucson, Ariz. in January of that year.
“Why should I sit down with a group of people who have spent their life fighting the Second Amendment?” LaPierre told the Washington Post after the 2011 invitation.