WASHINGTON, March 24 (UPI) -- The National Rifle Association chief said background checks wouldn't have stopped some mass shootings because the suspects were "unrecognizable" to the system.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told NBC's "Meet the Press" moderator David Gregory the suspects in mass shootings in Tucson, Aurora, Colo. and Newtown, Conn., wouldn't have been prevented from buying a weapon -- and in several instances did so legally prior to carrying out their acts -- because mental health provisions aren't considered in background checks as they're performed now.
"Here's the loophole ... the mental health laws, the medical records" aren't accessible in background checks, LaPierre said. "The Adam Lanzas, the shooters in Aurora, the shooters in Newtown, they're unrecognizable."
LaPierre said the existing retail background checks only hinder law-abiding gun owners and does nothing to prevent illegal arms trafficking.
LaPierre was responding to calls from gun control advocates including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also appeared on "Meet the Press" Sunday, for universal background checks on all gun sales. At present, about 40 percent of the gun sales in the United States are not subject to background checks, though recent polling suggests a large majority of Americans support closing the so-called "gun show loophole."
"This is about the public having the right to buy arms and the right to ... protect themselves and the right to use them for sport, for hunting," Bloomberg said. "But also, it's about the public's right to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. That's in everybody's interests."