Congress

Lawmaker wants to break NRA’s ‘hammerlock’ on Congress

Tearful Obama unveils new gun plan

Surrounded by families who have lost loved ones due to gun violence, President Barack Obama announced a package of executive actions to expand background checks for gun purchases. While talking about the deaths of some of the youngest victims, the
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Surrounded by families who have lost loved ones due to gun violence, President Barack Obama announced a package of executive actions to expand background checks for gun purchases. While talking about the deaths of some of the youngest victims, the

North Carolina’s delegate on the House of Representatives task force responsible for guiding much of the proposed policy for increased gun control said this week that President Barack Obama was left with little choice than to pursue executive action to achieve what he calls “common-sense” gun safety and violence reduction measures.

U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., said Tuesday it’s Congress’ fault for not acting sooner to expand background checks for more people buying a gun, and he accused many of his Republican congressional colleagues of being “in the pocket” of the National Rifle Association.

Ed Nicely, owner of Ed's Gun Shop in Vass, N.C., describes what it takes to purchase a handgun or a long gun in North Carolina Tuesday, January 5, 2016.

Meanwhile, Republicans from North Carolina criticized Obama’s action this week, calling it a “gun grab” and an attack on the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks the influence of money on policy and politicians, shows the NRA spent nearly $28 million lobbying in 2014 – the most recent year for which complete information is available. The data shows the NRA spent more money than any other gun-rights group on lobbying and nearly $14.3 million more than all gun-control groups combined in 2014.

Price sits on the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, a Democratic group formed after 26 people, including 20 children, were gunned down in December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The group put forth detailed policy proposals in February 2013, but Congress hasn’t passed any substantial gun control laws since then.

In the past 10 years, Price has received $750 to his campaign from gun control activist groups. This election cycle, so far, he’s reported no money from gun control lobbyists, according to OpenSecrets.org, the website for the Center for Responsive Politics.

One of three Democrats serving in Congress from North Carolina, Price has backed every universal background check and assault weapons ban bill that’s come up for debate in recent years. And, every time, he and fellow Democrats have found themselves on the losing side.

Price says not all of his Republican colleagues in the House – but most of them and specifically GOP party leaders – are to blame for blocking any gun control legislation since Obama’s been in office. GOP lawmakers, Price said, are afraid of being attacked or disowned by the NRA.

A few Democratic gun control policy ideas, such as universal background checks, are generally supported by a majority of Americans, according to recent popular opinion polls. But, Price said, those bills can’t pass in a Republican-controlled Congress.

President Obama is once again bypassing the legislative branch and subverting its will.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., criticizing gun control measures

For Democrats, a top question, Price said, is “how do we cut through the hammerlock that the NRA has on Congress?”

For Republicans, including most of North Carolina’s congressional delegation, a top question is how to reverse or stymie Obama’s executive actions.

Sen. Richard Burr called the executive actions a “gun grab.” Sen. Thom Tillis characterized Obama’s move as “overstepping” presidential authority and attempting to create laws “unilaterally.”

Other North Carolina Republican lawmakers chimed in on social media sites and by sending out news statements.

Rep. Mark Meadows lobbed criticism at Obama’s “executive fiat,” saying the president’s efforts bypass the legislative branch and subvert Congress’ will.

Rep. Walter Jones called the president’s actions “blatant disregard for the Second Amendment,” and he decried Obama’s proposed spending and federal resource additions as measures that “will only expand the size of government.”

Rep. Renee Ellmers reminded constituents she’s a North Carolina concealed carry permit holder and pledged to not let Obama “trample on our constitutional right to bear arms.”

Rep. Robert Pittenger criticized Obama for not meeting with Congress to write bipartisan legislation and added that medical privacy laws should change to increase access to mental health information.

Still, Price argues Obama already has tried to work with Congress.

“It is not his preference to act alone. . . . The president has done what he needs to do,” Price said.

While critics point out that changes in background checks and enforcement wouldn’t have prevented most of the recent mass shootings, Price contends Obama’s work will “save lives.” Though, he acknowledged, “these are not huge changes.”

Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield attended Obama’s address from the White House East Room on Tuesday morning.

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