NRA President David Keene predicts victory in gun debate after Senate hearing

Chris Moody

Despite facing a campaign to impose new gun restrictions—one backed by President Barack Obama after a string of deadly mass shootings across the country—the National Rifle Association says it has no intention of backing away from its stalwart defense of gun ownership. Indeed, the organization's leaders think it's a battle they'll win.

NRA President David Keene, who attended the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday for a bill that would impose restrictions on certain guns and ammunition available to private citizens, predicts that little will change by the time the most recent debate settles down.

“Our opponents … hope they can use emotion to achieve an anti-firearms agenda that they haven’t been able to achieve in the past," Keene said during a meeting with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor on Thursday morning. “People are smarter than politicians, and common sense ultimately prevails. … We’ve had that discussion at various decibel levels over the last several decades, and it’s always come out that way and I expect it to happen again.”

The group has been lobbying against a bill introduced by California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein that would require background checks at private gun shows and restrict access to some firearms. But it has called for adding individual mental health histories to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and increasing federal prosecutions against those who use guns for crime.

The NRA's confidence may be bolstered by the fact that Feinstein's effort faces significant hurdles in both the Republican-led House and the Democrat-majority Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, for example, has for years held a close but complicated relationship with the NRA, which endorsed him during his most recent Democratic primary election in Nevada. Keene, who said he had not spoken to Reid about the issue, said it was "anybody's guess" how the senator would vote on the bill.

"He's under incredible pressure right now because ... as any member of Congress or senator does, he's got his own beliefs," Keene said of Reid. "He's got the views and the demands of his constituents on the one hand and the pressure he faces from party leaders and his president on the other."