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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 3rd, 2013
06:23 PM ET

NRA supporters flock to Houston to 'Stand and Fight'

The National Rifle Association says its annual meeting in Houston is on track to be its largest ever. The theme this year is "Stand and Fight." The NRA recently fought, and won, a battle against the most serious gun control legislation in years, when the U.S. Senate defeated a bipartisan gun control bill proposing expanded background checks in April.

As members were on their way to the NRA meeting, a man fired a gun inside Houston's largest airport, and then shot himself when he was confronted by police. He left behind a suicide note saying he had a "monster within" him, and wanted police to stop him before he hurt others. It is too early to say if there are any laws that could have prevented the shooting, but the question remains, how can we keep guns out of the hands of mentally unstable people?

"We have, since the mid-1990s urged Congress and the states to make certain that those who have been adjudicated to be potentially violently medically ill be included in the background searches through the National Instant Check system," said NRA president David Keene. "Yet it hasn't happened."

Yet many argue the system should also flag not just those who are adjudicated as violently mentally ill, but also those who are mentally ill on a lesser level, alerting gun sellers that there might be concerns about an individual expressed by a doctor, hospital, or an ex-wife.

"Most of the people who have mental problems, who are mildly depressed or whatever, are no more dangerous than you and I are," said Keene. "We should not willy-nilly be taking their rights away from them."

"That's why we insist ... on adjudication, so that if you're going to deprive someone of their constitutional rights, you ought to have some certainty that there's a real reason for doing so," said Keene.

New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte's approval ratings have dropped significantly, and many political observers say it is because she voted against the gun control bill. Ayotte was at a town hall meeting Tuesday when Erica Lafferty, whose mother was killed in the Newtown shooting, asked Ayotte "why the burden of my mother to be gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn't as important as" inconveniencing gun sellers.

Keene reacted to the question, saying any tragedy, any murder, and any death is something that saddens everybody.

"But the bottom line you know with all of these proposals that were before the Senate was, if that proposal, if that legislation had been adopted a year ago, would it have prevented the Newtown tragedy?" said Keene.

"In every instance, there was one answer to that question.  The answer was no," said Keene.

The NRA supported expanding background checks in 1999. The proposal to expand background checks, to make sure the rules for people who buy guns are the same whether they are buying weapons at a gun show or on the internet, is legislation that the vast majority of Americans support.

The NRA was a major supporter of the establishment of the National Instant Check System,  a FBI-maintained system that checks a firearm purchaser's background when he or she buys from a firearms dealer, said Keene.

"The problem is, it's never worked very well.  A lot of the people who ought to be in that system aren't.  A lot of the people who shouldn't be in that system are," said Keene. "There are hundreds of thousands of cases in which people have been denied the purchase of a firearm when they had every right to purchase one."

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