OBAMA SEEKS SUPPORT ON PLAN FOR GUN CONTROL
Obama defends efforts, rips NRA, which calls event “spectacle”
President Barack Obama calls out the National Rifle Association at a town hall meeting, saying the group was refusing to acknowledge a responsibility to make legal weapons safer.
fairfax, va.» As President Barack Obama appeared before an audience of 100 partisans on both sides of the gun debate Thursday night at George Mason University — and was beamed into the living rooms of homes in red and blue states on the live CNN broadcast — his efforts to bridge the cultural divide on guns looked increasingly hopeless.
“Celebrate that we’re good people and 99.9 percent of us aren’t going to kill anyone,” Taya Kyle, the widow of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, whose story, including his death at the hands of a mentally unstable man, was the basis of the movie “American Sniper,” told Obama plaintively. She had written a commentary article earlier in the day saying stricter gun control “won’t protect us.”
Obama thanked her and her husband for their “service.”
The president has ventured into a battle in which specific policy proposals are overshadowed by deeply held attitudes about the proper role of the federal government.
The debate is taking place in a country where nearly a third of the citizens live in a home with guns, according to federal statistics, and 22 percent report owning firearms.
“I respect the Second Amendment. I respect the right to bear arms,” Obama told moderator Anderson Cooper. “But all of us can agree to take common-sense steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who want to do harm.”
Aides said before the event that Obama was eager for a “serious conversation” with his opponents. But his frustration was palpable from the start.
“Our position is consistently mischaracterized,” he said.
Noting that the National Rifle Association had declined an invitation to the town hall, Obama said: “I’m happy to meet with them. ... But the conversation has to be based on facts and the truth and what we are proposing, not some imaginary fiction that Obama is trying to take away your guns.”
Later, Obama appeared exasperated when he labeled such suggestions “a conspiracy.”
The event came as the capstone to a week in which Obama announced new, relatively small-scale executive actions to regulate the gun industry.
In an editorial published in The New York Times late Thursday, Obama said he would not campaign for or support any politician in either party who does not support “common-sense gun reform.”
That Obama’s forum was broadcast on cable news — which he has said he almost never watches, because of the hyperpartisan discourse — shows how determined he is to break through the noise to reach the public.
The NRA called the show a “public relations spectacle orchestrated by the White House.”
Obama fielded questions from a rape victim who opposes more gun restrictions and from gun-control advocate Mark Kelly, husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who survived a shooting in 2011. Giffords on Thursday stood next to him.
“Part of the reason this ends up being a really difficult issue is that people occupy different realities,” Obama said.
Studies have shown that Americans living in a home with firearms are more likely to be injured by guns.
But gun rights advocates have cited a half-dozen incidents in the past two years in which individuals have reportedly averted a mass shooting by opening fire on the potential perpetrator.
President Barack Obama greets Taya Kyle, widow of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, during a break. Kyle had told Obama she doesn’t believe that his recent gun control measures will stop gun violence because criminals don’t follow the law. Nicholas Kamm, AFP