David Keene said Sunday it was the Obama administration and congressional Democrats who were doing the stirring with their calls for increased controls on firearms, which in turn led to periodic runs on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.
"They are the ones that are scaring American gun owners, it isn't the NRA," Keene said on CNN's "State of the Union." "From the 1970s on, we have emerged as the defender of Second Amendment rights, that is a core part of our mission."
Keene said that although the NRA receives financial support from the firearms industry, the association's core constituency were gun owners who hold a legitimate concern their right to bear arms could be curtailed without good reason. "Our constituency is twofold," he said. "It's the American people who want to own guns and use them legally, and it is the Second Amendment itself."
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., was not convinced. He told CNN the powerful lobbying group was "not your father's NRA" and directly profited from gun sales through a "rounding up" program in which the purchase price is rounded up to the nearest dollar.
Murphy predicted the NRA would pull out all stops to block legislation curbing assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, which the U.S. public favored.
"You don't need an assault weapon to kill a deer, you don't need an assault weapon to do target practice," Murphy said. "Sportsmen are not going to have their rights abridged or their ability to enjoy their sport changed by having these dangerous, military-style assault weapons taken off of the streets."