(CNN) - Asa Hutchinson, the former Republican congressman who led the National Rifle Association’s school safety initiative, personally disagrees with its opposition to universal background checks, he told CNN on Tuesday.
"Yes. Absolutely. I'm open to expanding background checks," he said in response to a question on the "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."
Appointed by the powerful gun lobby to investigate school safety and how to improve it after the December shooting massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, Hutchinson said broadening the scope of background checks could only occur under certain circumstances.
“If you can do it in a way that does not infringe upon an individual and make it hard for an individual to transfer to a friend or a neighbor or somebody," he said.
A spokesman for the NRA told CNN after the remarks that Hutchinson was "not speaking” for the NRA, which does not back universal background checks.
"He meant expanding it to include more people into the national instant check system," the spokesman said. "And by number of people, this is in reference to the quality of information within NICS."
Legislation moving through the Senate would mandate checks on all gun sales as well as other steps aimed at reducing gun violence. The measure is backed by President Barack Obama, who will continue calling for gun violence legislation on Wednesday when he speaks at the Denver Police Academy, the White House said. The venue is not far from a theatre where a dozen people were killed in a shooting last July.
A CNN/ORC poll from mid-March showed support for major gun restrictions or outlawing all guns easing somewhat. Nine in 10 Americans said in recent poll they support a background check on every gun sale.
The two sides of the background check debate generally disagree on how to expand the current background check system.
Some support increasing the number of sales for which a background check is required, while the NRA maintains the quality of the data in the system needs to be improved.
They support including more individuals with mental health issues in the system and say an ineffective system should not be applied to more sales.
Among proposals that Hutchinson’s task force presented on Tuesday was training and arming adults in schools.
"If you have the firearms in the presence of someone in the school, it will reduce the response time and save lives," he said.
Among the report's other recommendations are enhanced training programs for school resource officers and an online portal where school administrators could assess the security of their facility.
His panel, he said on CNN, was not tasked with examining the efficacy of background checks or gun control measures.
"Our mandate was to deal with the issue of inside the four walls of the classroom, the school property, for safety, because you can have your background checks, you can have all kinds of side issues or gun control," he said. But those "will not make a difference for the safety in the classroom because you've always got vulnerability there."
Hutchinson said he wasn’t sure whether background checks alone could protect students.
"Well, we don't know. Obviously we think it's important to make sure that firearms do not get in the hands of people who are criminals, convicted felons or adjudicated as mentally ill," he said.
His panel, he said, included people of "varied opinions on that issue."
- CNN's Jim Acosta and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report