Thomas Roberts   |  May 03, 2013

GOP continues to feel the heat for the defeat of gun control

Dan Gross, president of the Brady campaign, and NBC’s Kasie Hunt discuss the opening of the NRA convention and the backlash against senators who voted down the gun amendment.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the day after he got the gun, he shot seven people and killed my sister and two of her co-workers. i think having universal criminal background check been done, my sister would still be with us right now.

>> good afternoon, everyone. i am here to speak for zena since she's not here to speak for herself.

>> that is the gut-wrenching ad that will be all over the weair waves as the nra comes to town. it features an nra member whose sister was murdered, shot by her husband. good morning. i'm thomas roberts . topping the agenda, advocates of gun control take their campaign to the nra 's doorstep two hours from now. the gun lobby will open its annual convention in houston , an event that will draw up to 70,000 of the nra 's self-reported four million members, including families members of gun violence victims who plan to hold vigil outside and read out loud the names of loved ones who have died at the hand of gun violence . now, inside, it's expected to be a celebratory, the nra fresh off the defeat of the gun control bill in congress.

>> one of the things we don't do is we don't mistake battles for wars. it was a victory in a battle, but the war continues. this is in essence a family gathering for believers in the second amendment.

>> causes colliding in houston as republicans in congress continue to feel serious heat back at home after voting no on capitol hill . at least one being accused of rewriting history with this reply to the question, why no background checks .

>> i really don't understand, it doesn't make sense to me. what is wrong with universal background checks ?

>> i will tell you in terms of a universal background check as it's been framed, i have a lot of concerns about that leading to a registry that will create a privacy situation for lawful firearms owners.

>> joining me right now from washington, d.c., we have dan gross, president of the brady campaign and from houston , just outside today's nra convention, is nbc news political producer, casey hunt. good to have you here. casey, i want to start with you. we are beginning the opening of the nra convention today. attendance at these conventions, it's apparently grown pretty significantly since the president took office. reportedly 60,000 in '04, 73,000 showing up in '09. as we look at this year in itself, the theme is stand and fight, so are those that are showing up there seeing this as a fight that's won or a fight that's just beginning?

>> reporter: they really see this as a fight that's just beginning and it's really continuing to go on. the outgoing nra president told nbc yesterday that this is really, they see this as they have won a battle in congress and that's really different from the long war. you know, one of the things that's noteworthy about what's happened since newtown is that gun control advocates are viewing it that way also. even though they lost that vote in the senate, they vow to keep trying and people like vice president joe biden has pointed to the original assault weapons ban in the '90s and said you know, it took us several times to pass that. so gun control advocates are vowing that they are going to continue and the nra is responding in kind.

>> one big person that's getting a lot of attention, senator kelly ayotte continues to be this lightning rod in the gun debate because of these town halls that she has held this week. we played that sound where she said the manchin/ toomey bill could lead to a gun registry , except we know that inside that bill, it expressly excludes any type of registry. so is kelly ayotte engaging in politics of distortion oir is this a bigger problem, she just doesn't understand the bill she voted?

>> it's politics of distortion, the same rhetoric you've always heard. the difference is this time, it's not flying. this time, it's been exposed and everyone who voted against 90% of the american public and the overwhelming will and safety of the american public, they're feeling the heat . that's what's different about this time. you know, the gun lobby is absolutely right in that this is a long-term war. it's not a war on the second amendment and the american public knows that. the american public knows that solutions like universal background checks actually strengthen the second amendment by defining the people that we all agree shouldn't have guns and keeping guns out of those hands. it's a war on gun violence . and the prevention of -- making this the safer nation that we all want and deserve. and the american public knows it. it's taken some time to have that translate to our elected officials feeling the heat , but because of this last vote, those winds are undoubtedly shifting.

>> president obama talks about the defeat of gun control during his first stop in mexico yesterday. want to show everybody. take a listen.

>> the last time we had major gun legislation, it took six, seven, eight tries. things happen somewhat slowly in washington. but this is just the first round.

>> so dan , as we know, the vice president was originally put in charge of helming a gun reform task force . we know that he is planning a new push for gun control , one that he hasn't even talked with the president about yet, but biden saying he plans to travel the country to push for manchin/ toomey , the background check bill, and others that have failed. but gun control advocates seem to be making the case that this failure has been all about a lack of understanding. so is that the case or is this more a lack of cohesive unified approach?

>> there has been tremendous cohesion in terms of the goal. i just want to kind of reframe what you just said a little bit. i mean, you know, progress has been made. this hasn't been an outright failure. the fact that there was a bipartisan agreement, the fact that six a-rated nra senators actually voted in favor of it, voted with their constituents and in favor of the safety of the american public. so you know, the winds have begun to shift. you also can see the polling results that have come out since the vote was taken, where senators ayotte and flake have gone down dramatically in their approval ratings and senator toomey has gone up dramatically for sponsoring the legislation. so it's really just a question of, you know, even more engaging the american public and then making sure that we take that message to congress that we're holding them accountable. that's why we're doing things like flooding congress with calls from the american public. we have this program where you can text my voice to 877877 to make your voice heard, and to be connected with your congress person.

>> when did that start? did that start prior to the voting itself? did that start prior to manchin and toomey getting together? or after the defeat?

>> it started prior and it was a big part of the reason why there was such unprecedented support in recent years for this legislation. you know, why six a-rated nra senators actually listened to their constituents. but it's definitely been amped up since the vote, and you know, it shows what a watershed moment -- i was actually in the chambers with sarah brady , who, you know, was there the first time around for the passage of the brady bill , that the president was talking about. you know, she turned to me immediately after, kind of partially consoling me, saying you know, dan , sometimes it takes a good defeat and that's really what's happened. because it shined a light on the elected officials who were not representing the american public and the very folks that we need to hold accountable and since the vote, we have put more than 20,000 calls in to the senate and now we're starting to do it while the house is back in their districts this week, flooding calls into there, making the voice -- changing that perception that the gun lobby , the small minority of extremists out there are the only ones who are willing to put their votes behind the point of view.

>> we'll see if it resonates.