Gun advocates split with NRA on background checks

piSome of the gun lobby’s strongest allies are breaking with the National Rifle Association to support proposals that would expand background checks for private firearm sales.

In behind-the-scenes talks with congressional staff members and others, gunmakers, dealers and other Second Amendment advocates have offered support for more instant criminal background checks, buoying the hopes of gun-control supporters, including President Obama, who has put a top priority on extending criminal checks to private sales.

The trade group for the nation’s leading firearm manufacturers said it will not actively oppose the expansion of background checks, which are designed to prevent guns from reaching criminals or the seriously mentally ill.

“That’s more the NRA’s issue,” Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), said in an interview. “From the commercial side, we’re already there, and we’ve been there, and we were the ones that have been the strongest proponents of an effective, complete background check.”

Sensing an opportunity, a group of big-city mayors wrote to major gun manufacturers Monday, warning that their governments may begin using economic leverage to win support for increased regulation, including an extension of background checks. The mayors of Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and other large cities spend millions on firearms and ammunition each year for their police departments.

“Our residents want to ensure that the tax dollars that are being used to purchase guns for our police departments are going to manufacturers that share our values and support our strategies,” Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who leads the National Conference of Democratic Mayors, wrote in a letter to Glock and the NSSF.

The recipients did not comment on Tuesday.

The effort to drive a wedge between the gun industry and the NRA intensified ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday on the Democrats’ gun-control program. The plan includes proposals for an assault-weapons ban, new restrictions on gun trafficking, school safety and…

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