WASHINGTON -- Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut demanded on Tuesday that the National Rifle Association and its CEO, Wayne LaPierre, "repudiate and reject" comments made by an NRA lobbyist who said that the "Connecticut effect" was interfering with the gun rights group's lobbying agenda.
The lobbyist, Bob Welch, made the comments while speaking at an NRA state meeting in Wisconsin over the weekend.
"We have a strong agenda coming up for next year, but of course a lot of that’s going to be delayed as the 'Connecticut effect' has to go through the process," Welch said, referring to the Dec. 14 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., which has galvanized public support for stricter gun control laws.
Blumenthal called Welch's description "callous and offensive" during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing, and he specifically addressed a number of his constituents in the audience who had lost family members in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"I want to express my regret at a statement that was made within the last 24 to 48 hours by a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, who said that his group was hoping the so-called 'Connecticut effect' would pass so that his group could be more effective in its lobbying," Blumenthal said. "Your presence today, the families being here today and tonight at the State of the Union, I think is a statement and a picture worth 1,000 words that the quote, 'Connecticut effect' unquote, will last, and that it will be a call to action."
Blumenthal made it clear that while the lobbyist in question only represented a state chapter of the NRA, he considered the whole group responsible. "The NRA lobbyist's comment is callous and offensive, and I call on the NRA, [and CEO] Wayne LaPierre, to repudiate and reject it. I think it is an insult to all of us in America, but most especially to the 26 families in Newtown who directly suffered this loss."
A spokesman for the NRA declined to immediately respond to Blumenthal's strongly worded request, but the senator's statement helped set the stage for what is likely to be a tense 24 hours for the NRA and for gun control advocates. President Barack Obama is expected to address gun control Tuesday night during his State of the Union address, and numerous Democratic lawmakers have invited victims of gun violence to be their guests at the event.
First lady Michelle Obama will have four guests at the event whose lives have been affected by gun violence: Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel A. Pendleton Sr., who lost their daughter Hadiya Pendleton to gun violence last month; Police Lieutenant Brian Murphy, who was the first officer to arrive at the scene of a shooting in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. in August 2012; and Kaitlin Roig, a first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School, who survived the December attack.