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NRA responds after Newtown shootings

Mourners gathered for the wake of shooting victim Charlotte Helen Bacon, 6, in Newtown, Conn.

David Goldman/Associated Press

Mourners gathered for the wake of shooting victim Charlotte Helen Bacon, 6, in Newtown, Conn.

WASHINGTON -- The National Rifle Association broke its silence Tuesday on the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting massacre in which a young man killed 27 people, 20 of them children slaughtered in their classrooms.

In a statement sent to reporters Tuesday afternoon, the nation’s largest gun-rights lobbying organization said it was “prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”

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The group said it would hold a news conference Friday in the nation’s capital, but said details would be released later.

The NRA said it was “shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown.”

But the NRA said it had refrained from commenting “out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency.”

The anguish over the shooting massacre of school children in Connecticut has spurred urgent calls for constructive discussions to reduce gun violence, as grief and outrage began to shift some minds in the nation’s capital.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, has attempted to reinstate the 1994 ban on assault weapons that expired eight years ago, but had been unable to muster the requisite 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. On Sunday, Feinstein vowed to reintroduce legislation when the new session of congress convenes in January to reinstate the ban.

The White House supports the weapons ban, and on Monday the president asked Vice President Joe Biden to lead Cabinet-level discussions that could offer a set of proposals, according to the Washington Post.

But the president also said that it was about education and mental health as well as about guns.

The shooter, Adam Lanza, reportedly was afflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism.

Guns and averting a so-called “fiscal cliff” have dominated the dialogue in Washington this week.

Graham Wilson, a political scientist at Boston University, wondered whether Friday’s tragedy would be a rare moment in American politics when a combination of events, leadership and policy could overcome political resistance and inertia.

“If this doesn’t do it, what will?” he asked. But Wilson expressed doubt whether the shootings in Connecticut will indeed be a game changer.

“I think these are issues where political fear has trumped common sense and paralyzed Congress for way too long,” added Senator John Kerry, the senior senator from Massachusetts.

“Whether it’s background checks, or assault weapons bans, or cracking down on particular ammunition that’s designed to inflict horrific carnage, I think common sense has been drowned out for more than 10 years.”

Kerry, a hunter and a Vietnam War veteran, said there was “a difference between weapons designed to kill a deer and weapons designed to kill people.”

“If the horror of what happened in Newtown isn’t a wakeup call sufficient to stiffen some spines in Congress, I don’t know what is,” he said.

The NRA, which holds powerful sway in Washington because of its money and its ability to mobilize its network of gun enthusiasts, has remained silent in the wake of the shootings. Over the weekend, the group took down its Facebook page just days after bragging that it had reached 1.7 million likes.

During the most recent election cycle, the NRA doled out at least $1 million to office seekers, In all, 2012 was the most active election cycle for pro-gun groups since 2000, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog that monitors campaign financing. Such groups contributed $3 million to candidates, 96 percent of them Republican, according to the center’s website, opensecrets.org.

Bobby Caina Calvan can be reached at bobby.calvan@globe.com. Follow him on twitter @GlobeCalvan.
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