As NRA is criticized on shooting response, bullets sell

A man target practices at a shooting range.
A man target practices at a shooting range.
CBS News

(CBS News) WASHINGTON, D.C. - Brownells, the company that calls itself the world's largest arms supplier, reports it sold three-and-a-half years' worth of AR-15 ammunition magazine in just three days. The company apologized online for delays in shipping new orders.

The AR-15 is the nation's most popular semi-automatic rifle, similar to the one used in the Newtown shootings.

At the same time, in Washington, the debate over gun control ramped up Sunday.

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On "Face the Nation," CBS News' Bob Schieffer questioned NRA President David Keene about his statement during Friday's news conference in light of the Sandy Hook shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn (see video at the left). Schieffer said Keene seemed to blame the mentally ill, Hollywood, the media and video game manufacturers - without laying any responsibilities on NRA's policies.

Kenne responded, "We're living in a country, a free country, in which people have a right to exercise their second amendment rights. We're living in a country where in the last few decades as gun ownership has increased, violent crime has fallen. What we have though in this country -- and in any country -- is a percentage of people who are frankly either evil or crazy."

The NRA is countering calls for tougher gun controls with proposals of its own.

One of those proposals is for the creation of a national database of the mentally ill to prevent them from buying weapons. It is also lobbying to put armed guards or police in schools.

"If it's crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our school to protect our children then call me crazy... I think American people think it's crazy not to do it," NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre on NBC's "Meet the Press."

But the American public is showing a new willingness to tighten gun control laws.

In a CBS News poll conducted after the fatal Newtown shooting, 57 percent of Americans said that gun control laws should be stricter.

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That's the highest level of support in a decade and may provide renewed support for politicians willing to challenge the powerful NRA lobby.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer criticized the NRA vice president's argument that any attempt at gun restrictions is bound to fail.

"I think he's so extreme and so tone deaf that he actually helps the cause of us passing sensible gun legislation in the Congress," Schumer said.

A number of Democrat congressmen have pledged to consider reintroducing an assault weapons ban on sales of semi-automatic rifles and restrictions on certain ammunition.

Many firearm enthusiasts fear new restrictions and are voting with their pocketbooks.

At a Denver gun show this weekend, ammunition for the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle -- the style of weapon used in the Newtown attack -- sold out within an hour.

"We're worried we're not going to be able our guns for our safety and we're not doing anything wrong," said one attendee, Crystalin Benedetto.

It isn't clear yet whether the second-worst school shooting in U.S. history may actually drives Washington to change any laws on who can buy guns, but schools are considering the NRA's proposal. At least a dozen states are reviewing existing school safety plans that include arming officers or to allow teachers or officers to carry weapons.

  • Margaret Brennan

    Margaret Brennan is moderator of CBS News' "Face The Nation" and CBS News' senior foreign affairs correspondent based in Washington, D.C.