NRA rejects House bill to disarm gun-owning criminals

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"NRA supports background checks on retail sales to ensure criminals and the mentally ill with violent tendencies do not have access to firearms. The Thompson-Speier bill, which would fund programs such as California's Armed Prohibited Persons System, does not do this," the group wrote Tuesday in an email. "That program depends on the existence of a state gun registration scheme that most states have wisely chosen not to copy."

Under the Democrats' proposal, the Justice Department would offer grants encouraging states to create programs to remove guns from people who are prohibited from owning them, including felons, fugitives, spousal abusers, drug abusers and the severely mentally ill.

The bill stipulates that those targeted must have a chance to disarm voluntarily before the state makes an effort to confiscate their weapons.

The California Armed Prohibited Persons System, upon which the proposal is modeled, has led to the removal of more than 10,000 guns from prohibited owners over the last six years, the Democrats said.

Thompson and Speier say the proposal strikes the right balance between keeping the public safe and protecting Second Amendment rights.

“The NRA is the first to say that we need to get the guns out of the hands of criminals," Speier said last month. "This bill does just that. We anxiously await their support."

The NRA this week had other ideas.

"Scarce federal money would be better spent on stopping prohibited persons from getting guns in the first place, anywhere in the country," the group said.

The NRA opposes any effort to expand background checks to private gun sellers, however, leading critics to question the group's dedication to blocking prohibited sales at places like gun shows.

The NRA is backing legislation, introduced last week, that clarifies which cases of mental illness disqualify people from buying guns.