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NRA chief ‘generally supportive’ of strong background checks

The president of the National Rifle Association (NRA) on Thursday said that the organization was “generally supportive” of strong background checks on firearm purchasers.

“We want to see the proposal, but as a general proposition, the NRA has been very supportive of doing background checks on purchasers through the instant system and secondly of adding the potentially violently mentally ill to the database,” said NRA chief David Keene in an interview with “CBS This Morning.” 

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"The NRA has been one of the biggest supporters of the so-called NICS [National Instant Criminal Background Check] system, which provides background checks,” Keene said. “In the past, when they were talking about checks at gun shows, most guns sold at gun shows do involve a background check because it is sold by licensed dealers.”

A CBS News poll released Thursday shows 92 percent of voters favor background checks for all buyers, including 85 percent of those from an NRA household. 

Keene said the group was opposed to new restrictions banning weapons, but was open to proposals that would help keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. 

“We’ve argued that we need two things: One, we need to get to the root of the problem, the broken, devastatingly broken mental-health care system we have in this country,” said Keene. “Secondly, we need to provide security, because we can never predict how one of these people is going to act."

He cautioned, though, that elements of the president’s comprehensive gun-violence reduction plan, unveiled on Wednesday, were “simply feel-good proposals that have been tried in the past, or won’t work or won’t have any real impact.”

Obama on Wednesday called on lawmakers to pass bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition and institute universal background checks on purchasers.

Additionally, Obama’s package on gun crime included 23 executive actions he signed to strengthen enforcement of current restrictions and safety programs. 

The plan drew quick criticism from GOP lawmakers and the nation’s pro-gun-rights groups, who likened the moves to a power-grab and said that president was undermining the Second Amendment with little benefit to public safety.

In his interview, Keene also defended an NRA ad released Wednesday criticizing Obama as an “elitist hypocrite” for opposing the lobby’s proposal to place armed guards in the nation’s school. The sharply personal attack cited the security detail afforded to the president’s own family by the Secret Service. 

“The ad was not about the president’s kids,” Keene said. “We also had pictures of a number of other people including [NBC anchor] David Gregory and others who send their children to schools with protection and deride the idea that average citizens' children should be protected.

“Our point was not about the president’s kids,” he added. “It’s about everyone else’s kids."

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