Gun control debate heats up rural, urban divide

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2013 - With members of Congress back home for the holiday break, both supporters and opponents of new gun control legislation are turning out in droves. Some pols suggest it could be a big test for those who question the relevancy of Rural America, where additional gun control measures are largely opposed.

MSNBC's Hardball host Chris Matthews, who is using his nightly show to advocate for stricter gone control laws, described the battle ahead as “country mice” versus “city mice.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid, D-Nev., moved a package of gun-related bills to the legislative calendar late last week and it is expected to be the first considered after the Senate returns from recess to Washington on April 8. Among other things, his measure would expand background checks and increase federal gun trafficking laws.

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Last week, Reid said that any bill that passes the Senate must include background checks. He also promised to allow amendments on other controversial provisions, including a ban on assault weapons and mental health provisions, but remained doubtful that such measures could pass the Senate.

Lobbying in support of stricter gun control laws, New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg is leading a coalition of other mayors supporting stronger restrictions. Both Bloomberg and the National Rifle Association are blasting voters and policymakers with campaign ads and mailed flyers.

Bloomberg said he would spend over $12 million of his own money to advertise in 13 states over the break. The ads will air in Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

We're running ads around the country, we've got people making -- manning phone banks and calling. We're trying to do everything we can to impress upon the Senators that this is what the survivors want, this is what the public wants,” Bloomberg said on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday. This is what the 900-plus mayors that are in our organization want, and they're the ones that have to deliver safety to the streets every single day.”

The National Rifle Association's Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, appearing on the same program, accused Bloomberg of trying to “buy America.”

LaPierre said gun owners across the U. S. are turning out in droves to counter Bloomberg's campaign.

“We have people all over, millions of people, sending us $5, $10, $15, $20 checks, saying, ‘Stand up to this guy that says we can only have three bullets,' which is what he said. Stand up to this guy that says ridiculous things like the N.R.A. wants firearms with nukes on them.' I mean, it's insane, the stuff he says.''

A key controversy in the gun control debate deals with record-keeping for background checks. While many believe background checks during gun sales makes sense, bi-partisan negotiations have broken down over whether or not sellers should maintain a record of the checks they run. There's fear among opponents that keeping such records could lead to some sort of national database of gun owners, which is prohibited under current federal law.

LaPierre described it as a “speed bump for the law abiding.”

“We're $1 billion into this system now. It's not fair, it's not accurate, it's not instant. The mental health records are not in the system, and they don't prosecute any of the criminals that they catch.”

When pressed by NBC's Meet the Press host David Gregory about why he would not support creation of a better system, LaPierre  said, “We've been trying for 20 years, and the N.R.A. is up on the Hill right now trying to get this existing system on retail dealers to work. But here's what they want to do. They want to take this current mess of a system and expand it now to 100 million law-abiding gun owners.

“Every time a hunter wants to sell a shotgun to another hunter in Kentucky, every time a farmer wants to sell a rifle to another farmer, they want to make them go somewhere,” LaPierre explained.

“Where are we (to) go, down to a Walmart? Is Walmart going to want to see them walk in the door? The local police station, are they going to want to do it? There's going to be a bureaucracy, there's going to be a diversion of police resources.”

But LaPierre saved his biggest criticism for Gregory and other members of the media who he said ignored the lack of attention to enforcing existing gun laws.

LaPierre said he just got the 2012 track data from Syracuse University of enforcement of federal gun laws.

“Do you know where Chicago ranks in terms of enforcement of the federal gun laws? Out of 90 jurisdictions in the country, they ranked 90th. Why doesn't NBC News start with, "Shocking news on Chicago. Of all the jurisdictions in the country, Chicago's dead last on enforcement of the federal gun laws"?

Why doesn't the national press corps, when they're sitting down there with Jay Carney and the president and the vice president, why don't they say, "Why is Chicago dead last in enforcement of the gun laws against gangs with guns, felons with guns, drug dealers with guns"




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