WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The National Rifle Association accused U.S. presidential candidates on Thursday of trying to politicize the deadly mass shootings in Ohio and Texas, warning against enhanced background checks for gun buyers a day after Republican President Donald Trump embraced the idea.
“Unfortunately, aspiring presidential candidates immediately took to the airwaves this past weekend to politicize these tragedies, and to demonize the NRA and its 5 million law-abiding members,” the gun rights lobby said in a statement without mentioning candidates’ names or party affiliations.
Many of the roughly two dozen 2020 Democratic presidential candidates pushed for tighter gun restrictions after the weekend shootings that killed 31 people in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. Many condemned the NRA for blocking meaningful gun control legislation.
“The Republicans are held by the throat by the NRA,” Democratic candidate U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren told a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Wednesday night. “Enough is enough.”
On Wednesday, Trump said he wanted to strengthen background checks for gun purchases as he left the White House to visit Dayton and El Paso.
But he did not go into details on legislation he might support.
The Washington Post reported that NRA chief Wayne LaPierre called Trump this week to tell him a background check bill would not be popular with his supporters.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives in February passed a bill calling for universal background checks for gun buyers. The measure would close loopholes allowing some sales over the internet and at gun shows to be finalised without background checks.
A second bill also passed by the House in February would extend to 10 business days, from the current three, the amount of time for the background checks if information on a gun sale application is incomplete.
Neither has been taken up by the Republican-controlled Senate, while the White House earlier this year floated veto threats against both bills.
After the shootings, Democrats pressed Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to reconvene the Senate to take up that gun legislation. But there has been no indication he would do so.
The NRA opposes that and other limits on gun sales as a violation of the right to gun ownership under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The group has long maintained that tougher background checks will not necessarily stem gun violence.
The NRA has contributed $1.266 million to McConnell since his first Senate race in 1984, according to the nonpartisan Center For Responsive Politics. McConnell is running for re-election in 2020. Broadly, gun rights groups’ spending on campaign contributions, lobbying and other activities far outstrips that of gun control advocates.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Richard Cowan; editing by Soyoung Kim and Jonathan Oatis