Vice President Joe Biden will meet the National Rifle Association on Thursday as part of a White House effort to develop new gun control regulations in the wake of last month's deadly elementary school shooting.
But assuming the meeting is a sign that the two groups are making headway may be misguided.
Representatives from the NRA and Wal-Mart, one of the nation’s leading sellers of firearms, are meeting with Biden, who is leading a White House gun-safety task force established by President Barack Obama in the days after the massacre in Newtown, Conn. The shooting, which ended in 26 fatalities, including 20 children, the gunman’s mother and the gunman himself, topped off a year that saw multiple mass shooting rampages across the country.
Representatives from Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), various telecommunications organizations and the Motion Picture Association of America will also be present at Thursday’s meeting, according to media reports. The entertainment and video games industries have come under scrutiny for promoting violent content that some lawmakers say contributes to aggressive behavior.
On Wednesday, Biden met with representatives of victims’ groups and gun safety organizations to get their input as he works to develop new ideas to prevent future acts of gun violence.
Despite the high-profile NRA meeting, Politico reports expectations for an actual agreement are low.
“I hope a tragedy like this one will get more and more people who’ve kowtowed to the gun lobby to rethink that, but it’s hard to be very optimistic,” former Democratic Rep. Mike Barnes, the former head of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told Politico. “It’s very hard to see anything meaningful passing in this House of Representatives.”
More than half of the members of the new House in the 113th Congress have been given an “A” rating by the NRA, meaning they tend to vote in the interests of gun-ownership rights.
The NRA has already made it clear that it would oppose any legislation calling for additional restrictions on gun ownership. In a statement issued in response to the Sandy Hook shootings, NRA head Wayne LaPierre said more guns, not fewer, was the only way to fight back against future acts of violence.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” LaPierre said, calling for a National School Shield Emergency Response Program that would place armed guards in schools. It would also address security concerns regarding building design and information technology improvements.
On top of the resistance from gun safety groups, which have already balked at any suggestions for additional firearm regulations, the publication reports supporting a gun control push may go against Wal-Mart’s strategic interests.
“Gun sales are going through the roof after the shooting. It’s one of the fastest-selling items right now," an unnamed source familiar with the company said. "Wal-Mart wants to be helpful to the White House, but when it contradicts sales, that is where it stops."
A spokesman for the retail giant disputed the claim, saying the company “is prepared to comply with whatever the law says.”
No matter what kind of cooperation it receives, Biden has made it clear the White House will act on gun safety, even if it takes an executive order.
“There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken. We haven’t decided what that is yet, but we’re compiling it all with the help the attorney general and all the rest of the cabinet members, as well as legislative action, we believe, is required,” Biden told reporters on Wednesday.