WASHINGTON -- The National Rifle Association's executive vice president continued to oppose background checks for all gun purchases despite polls indicating that most NRA members don't share his position.
The NRA's Wayne LaPierre said on "Fox News Sunday" that background checks for all gun purchases would lead to a national registry of gun owners. Critics say such a registry could lead to taxes on guns or to confiscation.
Mark Kelly, a gun owner and husband of Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who survived a 2011 shooting, asked LaPierre to listen to his members. He said the current system prevented 1.7 million gun purchases since 1999. However, those potential buyers had other options because many gun sales don't require a background check.
"Members of the NRA tend to be very reasonable on this issue," Kelly said, who also appeared on the Fox show.
As Congress responds to the spate of mass shootings in recent years, most notably the December massacre of 20 children and six adults in a school in Newtown, Conn., some are calling for a ban on certain semi-automatic weapons and on high-capacity ammunition magazines. However, calls for expanding background checks appear to have gained the most bipartisan support.
LaPierre said that requiring checks for all gun purchases would be a bureaucratic nightmare.
"It's going to affect only the law-abiding people," he said. "Criminals could care less.
LaPierre was pressed about his contention that gun checks would lead to a national registry, when no one from the Obama administration is calling for that.
"And Obamacare wasn't a tax until they needed it to be a tax," LaPierre said.
Kelly and LaPierre agreed on one point: More people seeking to buy guns illegally should be prosecuted.
"They should be prosecuted and there should be stiff penalties," Kelly said.
A key player in the coming gun debate in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said on ABC's "This Week" that he's willing to take a look at legislation that would ban certain semi-automatic weapons, but he also noted that he voted against a ban on such weapons in 1994 because it "didn't make sense."
He was more definitive on the issue of background checks, saying "everyone acknowledges we should do something with background checks."
Reid said his goal is for the Judiciary Committee to report out a gun bill. Senators could subsequently seek amendments on the Senate floor. That way, if the bill didn't contain certain provisions, such as the ban on certain weapons, then sponsors would at least get a vote on their proposal and lawmakers would have to go on the record about where they stand.
Related on HuffPost:
Increase Access To Background Check Data
Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
Remove Legal Barriers On Background Checks
Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
Incentivize Sharing Of Background Check Data
Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
Review Criteria For Gun Ownership
Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
Background Checks For Returning Seized Guns?
Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
More Guidance On Background Checks
Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
Safe & Responsible Gun Ownership
Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
Gun Lock & Safes
Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
Improve Gun Tracking In Criminal Investigations
Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
Report On Lost & Stolen Guns
Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
Nominate a director for Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.
Training For Law Enforcement
Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
Maximize Enforcement Efforts On Gun Crime
Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
Increase Research On Gun Violence
Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
Prioritize New Gun Technology
Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies
Clarify Obamacare On Doctors & Guns
Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
Inform Doctors On Reporting Threats
Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
School Resource Officers
Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
Develop Emergency Response Plans
Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
Clarify Scope Of Medicaid's Mental Health Coverage
Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
Finalize ACA Regulations
Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
Address Mental Health Parity
Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
Start Dialogue On Mental Health
Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.