NRA seeks a voice in talks about ending gun violence

by David Sherfinski, The Washington Times  |  published on December 19, 2012

The National Rifle Association said Tuesday that it will play a role in a national conversation to limit gun violence after Friday’s deadly shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school, as momentum built on Capitol Hill for a broad look at guns and other factors that play into such sprees.

Several top Republicans floated the idea of a commission that would look at mental health issues, violent influences on youths and on guns — and they cautioned against jumping to pass any bills in the near term.

“I think we ought to pursue the ideas that call for a blue ribbon task force or commission with all stakeholders that can look at the much bigger issues associated with tragic events such as this,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the SenateJudiciary Committee. “It certainly can’t be a debate just about guns.”

After more than a decade of retreat by gun controllers, the shooting spree Friday has prompted a seismic rhetorical shift on Capitol Hill, with pro-gun lawmakers in both parties saying they are open to changes in gun laws.

But the comments from the NRA, the nation’s most powerful gun rights group, which had been silent after the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, were seen as a watershed.

“We were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown,” the organization said in a statement. “Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”

The group said it would hold a news conference Friday.

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