In its official response, the NRA adopted a more muted tone than it has in recent weeks, saying it would work with Congress “on a bipartisan basis” to develop solutions that secure the nation’s schools and fix broken mental health systems. The statement did not specifically address Obama’s proposals, which include a $150 million school-safety initiative to help communities hire 1,000 new school resource officers.
But at a huge annual gun show in Las Vegas, the NRA said its opposition to Obama’s plans was “the fight of the century.”
“I warned you this day was coming, and now it’s here,” NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre wrote in a fundraising letter circulated at the trade show. “It’s not about protecting your children. It’s not about stopping crime. It’s about banning your guns . . . PERIOD!”
Gun-control advocates say their strategy will be to highlight popular support for most of Obama’s proposals and rally voters across the country to press their representatives in Congress to act.
“There’s an extraordinary disconnect between what the American public wants — including gun owners and NRA members — and what our elected officials are doing about it,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “It is going to be up to us, the American public, to close that disconnect.”
Obama vowed Wednesday to “put everything I’ve got into this.” In a moving event one month and two days after a gunman killed 20 small children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Obama was flanked by children who wrote him letters
in the days after the massacre, pleading with him to do something to curb gun violence.
The president urged Americans to put pressure on their members of Congress and “get them on record” on whether they support universal background checks on gun buyers and renewal of the bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
“And if they say no, ask them why not,” Obama said. “Ask them what’s more important: Doing whatever it takes to get an ‘A’ grade from the gun lobby that funds their campaigns, or giving parents some peace of mind when they drop their child off to first grade?”
Vice President Biden, who headed the task force that developed Wednesday’s proposals, said “we have a moral obligation” to reduce the chances that tragedies such as the one in Newtown could happen again.
“I have no illusions about what we’re up against,” Biden said. But he added: “The world has changed, and it’s demanding action.”
Sari Horwitz in Las Vegas and William Branigin, Scott Wilson and Lyndsey Layton in Washington contributed to this report.