Gov. Dan Malloy, D-Conn., whose state was wracked by tragedy in December when a gunman killed 20 small children and six faculty members at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., slammed the National Rifle Association Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," saying NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre "reminds me of the clowns at the circus - they get the most attention."
"This guy is so out of whack, it's unbelievable," Malloy said, saying the NRA simply will not compromise "on anything to do with guns."
Instead, Malloy said, the NRA is protecting "the ability of the gun industry to sell as many guns to as many people as possible - even if they're deranged, mentally ill, a criminal background, they don't care. They want to sell guns."
After the shooting in Newtown, the federal government and a variety of states began debating and, in some cases, implementing new restrictions on firearms. While no federal legislation has yet been passed, several states have successfully strengthened their own gun laws, including Connecticut, when Malloy last week signed a bill banning over 100 types of assault weapons, limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines, and requiring a background check for all gun purchases.
After the NRA's LaPierre said that the new Connecticut laws would simply prevent law-abiding people from procuring guns for self-defense, Malloy fired back. "I can't get on a plane, as the governor of the state of Connecticut, without somebody running a background check on me," he noted, asking why someone who hasn't passed a background check should be "able to buy a gun? Or buy armor-piercing munitions? It doesn't make any sense. He doesn't make any sense."
Former Rep. Asa Hutchison, R-Ark., who was tasked with spearheading the NRA's call to place armed guards in schools to protect children, defended the organization's opposition to background checks on "Fox News Sunday."
"I think in general concept, Americans, everybody would like to see effective background checks so that criminals do not have access to firearms," he said. "But as a practical matter ... if you are a farmer, 30 miles from town and you want to transfer a shotgun to a neighbor, you've got to go 30 miles into town, find the federal licensed firearm dealer, fill out the paperwork, pay the fee, have the background check and then you have a responsibility to keep those records for inspection by the government and that's a huge burden on citizens."
Hutchison accused the president of taking "the debate totally in the wrong direction" by pushing for gun control instead of school safety in the wake of Newtown. "I really believe that our focus should be on the school safety," he said, "And so I'm disappointed the president has not focused the debate on the right issue for America."
But President Obama's senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer defended the administration's approach. "We should do more to make our schools safe. Absolutely, there's no question about that," he said, appearing before Hutchison on "Fox News Sunday." "That doesn't mean we shouldn't take other common-sense measures that are supported by the majority of Americans" like passing universal background checks.
"There is a bill in the Senate, which is the most progress we have made legislatively in many years to try to address gun violence," Pfeiffer said. "The crux of that bill is what many advocates said is the most effective thing we can do, which is universal enforceable background checks. And so, the question is, are we going to--are we going to pass that bill? Or are Republicans going to block it?"
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told "Face the Nation" that he remains noncommittal on the question of background checks. "It really depends on how they're carried out, how long, what the depth of it is," he said.
"Everybody wants the same goal, and that is to keep the guns out of the hands of criminals and people who are mentally disabled," McCain added, calling for a "vigorous debate" on the floor of the Senate about background checks, a seeming rebuff of several Republican senators who have pledged to filibuster a motion to begin debate on the gun bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he could bring the gun bill, which includes universal background checks but does not include a ban on assault weapons or a size limit for ammunition magazines, to the floor as early as next week.