WASHINGTON -- Just hours after Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D) called on the National Rifle Association to "reject" a lobbyist's controversial remarks about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, a NRA spokesman effectively did so, telling Talking Points Memo that the lobbyist in question, Bob Welch, "is neither a staff lobbyist nor a contract lobbyist for the National Rifle Association."
Welch, the spokesman added, "does not speak for the NRA."
The brush-off came three days after Welch was recorded telling an audience at a Wisconsin state NRA meeting that the group has "a strong [lobbying] 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 was referring to the Newtown, Conn., school massacre of six adults and 20 children on Dec. 14, which has galvanized public support for stricter gun control laws.
Blumenthal singled out Welch's remark during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing Tuesday, describing it as "callous and offensive." The senator called on "the NRA, [and NRA CEO] Wayne LaPierre, to repudiate and reject it."
An NRA spokesman declined to respond to questions from The Huffington Post.
According to TPM, the relationship betweenWelch and the gun rights group is more complicated than it appears:
While it's not clear whether Welch, a former Wisconsin state legislator, has ever been paid by the NRA to lobby the state legislature in Wisconsin, it is clear that he and the group he represents has claimed to speak for the NRA in the past.
Welch is a registered lobbyist for Wi-FORCE (Wisconsin Firearm Owners, Ranges, Clubs & Educators, Inc.). The Wi-FORCE website is emblazoned with the words "An NRA Chartered State Association" as well as a newsfeed from the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, the group's lobbying arm.
The NRA did not immediately respond to a followup email from TPM seeking clarification, and Welch did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Wi-FORCE ties itself to the NRA in official literature. In a section titled "Who is Wisconsin FORCE and why you should join?" as part of an application to the group, the organization claims to have won "Association of the Year" from the NRA in 2011.
Welch was quoted in the document claiming to work closely with the NRA.
"In just the last few years, Wisconsin FORCE has gone from an organization that few in State Government had heard of, to an organization that is widely recognized as the strong right hand of the NRA in Wisconsin," he said, according to the recruitment letter.