The former Republican Congressman who is heading up the National Rifle Association’s task force to improve school security in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting told CNN’s The Situation Room on Tuesday that he is personally open to expanding background checks to more gun purchases — putting himself at odds with the nation’s largest gun lobby.
Asa Hutchinson — who is running for governor in Arkansas — made the admission after host Wolf Blitzer repeatedly prodded for a direct answer and pointed out that 90 percent of Americans support the change:
BLITZER: I’ll put one poll up on the screen. CBS poll. Federal law requiring background checks on all potential gun buyers. 90% of the American public favor that. Only 8% oppose that. What say you?
HUTCHINSON: If Congress decides we ought to expand background checks that is a decision they will make. On my task force, on my task force we had varied opinions on that issue but it was not the focus of our task force and so it’s — if you’re looking at my personal opinion on background checks I hope Congress can look at a way to do better in having good records in the system that does the background checks so that we actually have information as to who has been adjudicated mentally ill, that we can have information, better information on convicted felons, and that we make sure that when someone purchases a firearm that it is going to someone qualified to own it. we’re all for that. As to how they…
BLITZER: What I hear you saying is you’re open to expanding background checks personally.
HUTCHINSON: Yes, absolutely. I’m open to expanding background checks if you can do it in a way that does not infringe upon an individual and make it hard for an individual to transfer to a friend or a neighbor or somebody that, here in Montana, and have a casual sale, we don’t want to infringe on those rights either.
Hutchinson announced the findings of the NRA’s “School Shield” task force on Tuesday, which encourages schools to hire armed School Resource Officers to protect students and requires them to pass background checks. “Yes, yes, [background checks are] part of the recommendation,” Hutchinson said at a press conference announcing the results. “[SROs] would have to go through background checks, they would have to go through testing and screening and then 40 to 60 hours of training.”
Background check proposals being floated in Congress would require private sellers and buyers “to meet in person with a licensed dealer, where the dealer would check the buyer against the federal database for a fee.” The dealer would retain “a record of the sale” but would not send the information to the government, since current law prohibits the the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from establishing a national registry.