DENVER - The head of the powerful U.S. gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, said Thursday he's confident that Congress won't approve an assault weapons ban or a limit on high-capacity ammunition magazines after mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut.
David Keene predicted failure for all congressional measures related to guns, including expanded background checks for gun purchases.
"I tell you what these things are, these are all feel-good proposals, because at the end of the day, what do they do to prevent" a mass shooter? asked Keene, the NRA's president.
Keene was in Denver to meet with Colorado's Democratic governor and state lawmakers. He met with The Associated Press for an interview before sitting down with state officials.
The interview comes as the Obama administration is trying to push several gun control measures through Congress in the wake of the shooting of 26 people, including 20 children, at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut in December and other high-profile shootings around the country.
Keene talked about prospects for federal gun control measures under discussion in Congress and predicted political peril for Democrats who support such bills.
"The Senate's where the action's going to be," Keene said. "The House is sort of sitting back, and you can almost hear the House Republican leadership saying under their breath, you know, go ahead. We've got a few members that wouldn't mind sitting in the Senate. If you do this, maybe they will. So the Senate leadership is much more cautious."
Colorado U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, said he disagreed with Keene's assertion that Congress would do nothing.
"In the wake of recent mass shootings, including one in Colorado, the status quo on gun violence is simply unacceptable," Udall said in a statement. "Coloradans expect and deserve better than continued inaction from Congress. I simply disagree that Congress cannot or should not try to reduce mass shootings and gun violence."
In recent weeks, Keene has become an increasingly public figure for the powerful gun rights group in the ongoing debate on gun control. He has offered a softer, if equally staunch voice for the gun lobby's ideas as compared with Wayne LaPierre, the fiery executive vice-president who remains the NRA's most prominent voice on the public stage.
Keene has been active with the NRA for decades, starting as a board member before being elected the group's president in 2011.
Keene on Thursday called universal background checks a political "sweet spot" but said the plan won't work in practice. He says current background check systems are underfunded and that requiring background checks on private sales would be a logistical mess.
He indicated he wants to tour the nation meeting with more state officials about looming gun control proposals. However, he dismissed plans to meet with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who enacted the first gun control measure in the nation following the Sandy Hook school massacre.
"There really isn't any reasonable discussion you can have with him," Keene said of Cuomo.
Colorado's governor has called for universal background checks, even on neighbor-to-neighbour sales. Hickenlooper's gun posture has shifted somewhat from last July, in the days right after the Aurora movie theatre shooting that killed 12. Hickenlooper said then that stricter laws would not have prevented the mass shooting.
"I think Gov. Hickenlooper had it right after the Aurora shooting. He said it's not the laws, it's these kinds of people," Keene said.
Hickenlooper has since proposed enhanced mental health services. But he told the Democratic Legislature in a January address, "it's not enough to prevent dangerous people from getting weapons."
Lawmakers are expected to consider expanded background checks, as well as a 10-round magazine limit. Keene said the NRA opposes ammunition limits.
"Our view is that there are some people, the people you try to identify, who shouldn't have any firearms with any size magazine," he said.
Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt , and Ivan Moreno can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/IvanJourno .
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