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Group uses Reagan shooting to push tougher gun laws

A pro-gun-control group is using footage of the attempted assassination of President Reagan in a new ad. 

The ad from the United Network of Rational Americans uses the footage to argue expanded background checks might have prevented John Hinckley Jr. from shooting the president. It also says Reagan himself made that argument. 

"President Reagan believed something could have prevented the attack," the ad's narrator says. "Ten years later, he wrote the attack might never have happened if a bill requiring background checks had been law."

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Hinckley shot Reagan 32 years ago this week despite the presence of armed Secret Service agents and police, the group notes. He was later found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting, which injured four. Reagan suffered a punctured lung and press secretary James Brady was left paralyzed.

The ad cites a 1991 op-ed by Reagan in support of the Brady Bill, named for his press secretary. That legislation requires a background check on individuals who purchase weapons from a federally licensed dealer. Next month, the Senate will consider legislation that would expand background checks to private and gun show sales.

The use of the Reagan footage could inflame an already divisive debate. United Network of Rational Americans was founded by Scott Crider, an activist who made headlines with the "Dogs Against Romney" group during the 2012 presidential campaign. That group staged events that mocked the Republican presidential nominee over an incident where the Romney family took a road trip with their Irish Setter placed in a carrier on top of their car.

"Thirty-two years ago this week, President Ronald Reagan was shot by a mentally disturbed man," Crider said in a statement posted to Facebook. "The best armed security in the world couldn't prevent it."

In an event Thursday at the White House, President Obama asked supporters to pressure their members of Congress to support an expansion of background checks.

“If they're not part of that 90 percent that agree that we should make it harder for a criminal or someone with a severe mental illness to get a gun, you should ask them why not," Obama said.