In Chance for Substantive Debate on Guns, NRA Skips Town Hall Meeting With President
President Obama commanded the floor Thursday night during a live TV town hall event focusing on gun violence in America, largely because the nation’s largest pro-gun group refused to show up for the talk.
CNN invited President Barack Obama and the National Rifle Association to George Mason University Thursday night to debate the issues surrounding the 2nd Amendment, gun ownership, and gun violence in America, but only Mr. Obama chose to show up.
“Our position is consistently mischaracterized,” Obama said during the televised event. “There’s a reason that the NRA isn’t here. They’re right down the street. You think they’d be prepared to have a debate with the President.”
“They haven’t been to the White House in years?” host Anderson Cooper asked.
“We’ve invited them,” Obama answered. “We’ve invited them.”
George Mason University is located in suburban Washington near the NRA’s headquarters.
Before the town hall event Thursday, Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesperson for the gun rights group, told the cable news network the organization saw “no reason to participate in a public relations spectacle orchestrated by the White House.”
But CNN made clear they put together the town hall event and invited the group, not the President, who looked forward to having a thorough debate surrounding the issues.
“I’m happy to meet with them. I’m happy to talk with them,” Mr. Obama said.
The New York Daily News, which has been highly critical of the NRA and its relative silence and inaction following a series of massing shootings, took aim at the group once again on its cover with the question, “Where’s Jihadi Wayne?,” a poke at the group’s current CEO, Wayne LaPierre.
From the Daily News:
“The meeting — dubbed “Guns in America” — took place following a spate of mass shootings, including the recent San Bernardino, Calif., attack where 14 people were massacred.
“During the meeting, Obama denied accusations — often voiced by paranoid NRA members, gun nuts and Republican lawmakers — that he wanted to take away people’s guns.”
The President spent much of his time Thursday defending a series of executive actions revealed earlier this week – new rules aimed at expanding background checks, improving gun safety, and providing more funding for mental health treatment – and tamped down the notion that he wanted to “take away people’s guns.”
“What can you say to somebody tonight to convince them that you don’t want to take away everybody’s guns, that you’re not coming for their guns?” Cooper asked the President.
“Well, first of all Anderson, I think it’s useful to keep in mind now, I’ve been President for over seven years and gun sales don’t seem to have suffered during that time,” Obama responded.
“If anything, you’ve helped,” said Cooper.
“They’ve gone up,” Obama agreed. The President then went into a short story about how he and wife, Michelle, would probably own guns if they grew up in the rural areas of Iowa.
Obama went on to call the idea that his administration is secretly planning to confiscate everybody’s guns across America a “conspiracy.”
“But let me just jump in, is it fair to call it a ‘conspiracy?’” Cooper asked. “I mean, a lot of people that really believe this deeply, that they just don’t trust you.”
“I’m sorry, Cooper,” Obama answered, clearly annoyed by the suggestion. “Yes, it is fair to call it a conspiracy. What are you saying? Are you suggesting that… the notion that we are creating a plot to take everybody’s guns away so that we can impose martial law is a conspiracy? Yes, that is a conspiracy.”
Though arguably mild were Obama’s executive orders on Tuesday, it’s clear that he believes the country as a whole can and should do more.
“We can do better than we’re doing right now…if we come together.”
But based on the NRA’s refusal to even show up to the table, it’s likely not much will change in the near future.