Nightly News   |  March 24, 2013

Gun debate plays out on Meet the Press

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is trying to create a counterweight to the NRA, as the future of the nation’s gun laws remains uncertain in Congress. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports.

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>>> fight over guns heated up today with two of the most visible figures in that debate arguing their positions on morning television. nbc's kristin welker has more on that from the white house .

>> reporter: with stiffer gun laws facing an uncertain future in congress, new york mayor michael bloomberg squared off against national rifle association 's ceo wayne la pierre on "meet the press" today.

>> i think i've spent $12 million on running ads.

>> he can't buy america.

>> tell didn't don't protect criminals.

>> reporter: bloomberg announced a $12 million campaign aimed at convincing swing senators to support universal background checks .

>> i've owned a gun all my life and i'll fight for my right to keep it. background checks have nothing to do with taking guns away from anyone.

>> reporter: bloomberg's strategy -- create a counterweight to the nra, harnessing the groundswell of support for tougher laws in the wake of the newtown tragedy.

>> 90% of the public wants something and their representatives vote against that. common sense says they are going to have a price to pay for that.

>> he he's going to find out this is a country of the people, by the people and for the people and he can't spend enough of his $27 billion to try to impose his will on the american public.

>> reporter: la pierre argued background chebs only create hurdles for law abiding citizens.

>> is there any kind of background check you'd be willing to support or at least not oppose actively that could allow this to pass?

>> we want to fix the existing system on retail sales because our people are the ones that are going through it and are getting delayed. it doesn't work. nobody gets prosecuted. it is completely ineffective.

>> reporter: with most polls showing a majority of americans support tougher gun laws --

>> gun legislation --

>> reporter: last week senator minority leader harry reid dropped an assault weapons ban from the larger gun bill declaring it couldn't pass.

>> there's a lot of wear rareness among members of congress and the nra.

>> reporter: the debate is focused on this senate for now. advocates for tougher laws will stage two rallies here tomorrow. no matter what the senate winds up doing, gun control faces a much tougher challenge in the republican controlled house.

>> kristin welker tonight, thank you.