WASHINGTON, February 4, 2013 — When he went on “Fox News Sunday,” Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association (NRA) executive vice president, expected to be in friendly territory. Instead he found himself up against conservative host Chris Wallace, who asked tougher questions and follow-up questions than did the Senators at last Thursday’s gun control hearings.
LaPierre must be rubbing his head this morning and asking himself, whose bright idea this was. LaPierre was armed with all his usual talking points and even though he was following astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords who had testified the same day as LaPierre and a gun owner himself, he probably didn’t expect the grilling that Wallace gave him.
Wallace Set the Tone
And when he tried to fight back, saying he had a few questions of his own, Wallace shot back, that this is his show “and I ask the questions.” Ouch!
But right from the beginning, Wallace seemed to be following Giffords’ admonition to Congress last Thursday to “Be bold. Be courageous.”
Right from the get-go, Wallace had LaPierre on the hot seat, asking him about changing from his 1999 position before Congress in support of universal background checks for gun buyers to his adamant testimony this past week against any such checks.
Wallace noted that even with limited background checks on people buying from gun dealers, that 1.7 million people have been denied being able to purchase a gun. LaPierre said that we don’t know if they “were stopped from getting a gun at all,” especially criminals.
However, think how many Tucson (where Giffords was shot in the head) or Aurora killers it would have prevented if the background checks were required at gun shows and between private buyers. But LaPierre was having none of it, saying that universal background checks only lead to “a universal registry of law-abiding people.” Plus it will create a “bureaucratic nightmare.” But Wallace pointed out that there is no register proposal even on the table, letting LaPierre know such an argument if specious.
Universal Background Check or National Registry?
Several times, LaPierre tried to change the subject to gangs and guns, particularly in Chicago and how a federal task force should look at that problem, but Wallace reminded him that no gang members have shot up a movie theater or a school, and he adroitly yanked the conversation back to the issue of gun control.
LePierre also was unrelenting in his support of assault weapons, adding, “If you limit the American public’s access to semi-automatic technology, you limit their ability to survive.”
But Wallace reminded him of the Supreme Court’s ruling in upholding the Second Amendment, in particular what Justice Antonin Scalia said: “We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’”
However the testiest of the exchanges came when Wallace questioned the controversial NRA ad that mentions President Obama’s children by saying “Are the President’s kids more important than yours?”
Wallace pointed out that the president’s children, just by the nature of their father’s job, are more vulnerable than most children, followed by the Wallace smack down:
LaPierre: The President’s kids are safe, and we’re all thankful for that.
Wallace: They also face a threat that most people do not face.
LaPierre: Tell that to the people in Newtown! Tell that to the people in Newtown.
Wallace: Do you really think that the President’s children are the same kind of target as every schoolchild in America? I think that’s ridiculous, and you know it, sir. [See video below.]
You could hear the acid drip in Wallace’s voice despite the use of the word, sir.
Seismic Shift for Fox
That Sunday morning exchange was a seismic shift in the gun control dialogue. Wallace showed the kind of guts Gabby Gifford was asking for from Congress. Now to see if the members of the Senate and the House can show the same kind of guts and go for the glory of being on the right side of history.
Or will they crumble to the gun lobby? As Chris Wallace and Mark Kelly noted at the beginning of the show, the NRA contributed $20 million to the federal campaign and 50% of the new members of Congress have an A rating from the NRA.
It has been less than two months since the Newtown shootings, and legislation has been drafted and, following Vice President Joe Biden’s findings, President Obama has set forth his own proposals. They include universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and a limit on ammunition clips as well as improving mental health outreach and better help for families.
But even this seems too much for some people. However, the fact that a Fox News conservative, Chris Wallace, challenged a gun advocate’s stance in what some might even deem hostile terms, means that we may have reached a tipping point in the debate.
That should serve to increase the pressure on members of Congress, but only if they hear from the high percentage of people, who in poll after poll from Fox News to Pew Research, who favor gun control, pulling their representatives back from the brink and into the mainstream of American thinking.
To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.
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