By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the National Rifle Association will discuss gun control and violence in the United States on a weekend television talk show, as the group mounts its response to the Connecticut school shootings.
NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre will appear on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, his first interview since the killing of 20 young children and six adults at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, last Friday.
The show said LaPierre would talk about gun control and "what he thinks should be done to curb the threat of violence in America" during his appearance.
The group, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States, kept largely quiet in the first days after the Newtown shootings. It broke its silence on Tuesday to say it wanted to contribute meaningfully to prevent another massacre like the Connecticut shooting and would hold a "major" news conference on Friday.
That news conference will take place on Friday morning at a hotel across the street from the White House, the NRA said on Thursday.
A powerful force in Washington and beyond, the NRA uses political pressure against individual lawmakers in the U.S. Congress and in state legislatures to press for loosening restrictions on gun sales and ownership while promoting hunting and gun sports.
But it has come under pressure from gun-control proponents since the Connecticut massacre, the fourth mass shooting in the United States this year.
President Barack Obama has vowed to press for tighter gun laws by next year, and announced that Vice President Joe Biden would lead an interagency effort, including several members of Obama's cabinet, to craft new policies.
Biden's group was holding its first meeting on Thursday.
Democrats in Congress who favor gun control have called for quick votes on measures to ban assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, hoping that the slaying of the 6- and 7-year olds in Newtown might be a tipping point to win over more lawmakers.
U.S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband was killed in a mass shooting in 1993, said something has to be done. "There's going to be another killing," she told reporters at the Capitol. "The problem is, they are getting worse and worse."
But so far, the only major Republican legislator who has come out in favor of an assault weapons ban is Senator Scott Brown, a moderate from Massachusetts, who lost his bid for re-election and is leaving office.
The NRA's power is partly due to its large and active membership, which reportedly has been growing rapidly since the Newtown shootings. NRA officials did not immediately comment, but Fox News, citing a source within the organization, said the group has been adding 8,000 new members a day.
(Reporting By Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Claudia Parsons)