NRA president predicts assault weapons ban won’t pass Congress

The head of the National Rifle Association (NRA) on Sunday predicted that efforts to pass a ban on assault weapons and restrictions on the same of high-capacity ammunition would likely fail.

NRA President David Keene, in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley," said that “right now” the group had enough support in Congress to prevent such measures.

"I would say that the likelihood is they're not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress,” he said.

Asked about a ban on the sale of high-capacity ammunition, Keene added “ultimately I don’t think they are going to get that either.”

But Keene cautioned that if President Obama uses “all the power of his office and is willing to expend political capital, you don’t want to make predictions, you don’t want to bet your house on the outcome.” 

In his interview, Keene, the head of the nation's largest gun lobby, said that the White House task force on gun violence had failed to address the concerns of gun owners and that many of their likely proposals lacked support on Capitol Hill.

"I'm willing to say that guns in this country have as much influence as they always have, and perhaps more," he said, pointing to the nation's many gun owners.

Keene said there was little progress in his meeting Thursday with Vice President Joe Biden, who is heading the White House task force. 

"We suspect that all he wanted to do was to say he talked to us, and now they're going to go forward and do the things they wanted to do," Keene said.

Biden last week held a series of meetings on guns with groups including the NRA, Wal-Mart, and video game manufacturers and retailers. He plans to deliver a set of recommendations based on the "task force" meetings to President Obama on steps to take to address gun violence. 

After Biden's meeting with NRA representatives on Friday, the gun lobby issued a statement accusing the White House of "an agenda to attack the Second Amendment."

"While claiming that no policy proposals would be 'prejudged,' this Task Force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners — honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans," the statement said.

The NRA has said they are strictly opposed to many of the gun restrictions that the White House has already pushed for, including bans on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition. 

Pro-gun control groups have accused the NRA of blocking measures to prevent gun violence, even in the wake of a number of mass shootings in 2012, including the massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

But Keene said that the NRA has made recommendations to increase gun restrictions, for instance prohibiting people who have been diagnosed with mental illness from buying guns.

"What we put the brakes on is anything that [abridges the Second Amendment] for no good reason," Keene said on CNN, while acknowledging that "rights" can be restricted when they threaten others. He used the often-cited example of yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater, which is unacceptable despite the right to free speech.

But, he said, the group was "not willing to compromise on people's rights when there's no evidence that doing so will solve the problem."

Keene said the NRA does not think the bans on assault weapons or high capacity ammunition will work, a determination based in part on the organization's long experience with weapons and gun sales.

"You should absolutely be willing to compromise on things that accomplish a purpose," he said. "Our objection to those things is they interfere with people's rights without doing anything to address the problem."

Keene also denied accusations the NRA is using fear tactics to stir up their members with warnings about the government infringing their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. 

He instead blamed Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is pushing the assault-weapons ban in the new Congress, along with Obama, for "scaring American gun owners" with their legislative proposals.

This story was updated at 11:52 a.m.