Source: The Guardian
Barack Obama tore into the nation’s largest gun lobby on Thursday as he sought support for his actions on gun control, accusing the National Rifle Association of peddling an “imaginary fiction” that has distorted the national debate about gun violence.
In a televised townhall meeting on CNN, Obama faced a range of audience questions from people across the spectrum, from a rape survivor who wanted to be reassured that she would still be able to protect herself, to a sheriff who wanted to know if he would be able to enforce the law, to Mark Kelly, the husband of Gabrielle Giffords, the representative who was shot in Arizona in an attack that killed six people.
The president’s cool demeanor frayed only once – when challenged over his use of the term “conspiracy” when discussing whether his government wanted to take people’s guns from them. “Yes! I think it’s fair to call it a conspiracy!” he said.
He blamed that notion on the NRA and like-minded groups that convince its members that “somebody’s going to come grab your guns”.
“I’m only going to be here for another year,” Obama said. “When would I have started on this enterprise?”
Obama’s acknowledgement of his limited remaining time in office as an obstacle to effecting permanent change in US gun laws was echoed in an op-ed published in the New York Times on Thursday evening.
“It’s clear that commonsense gun reform won’t happen during this Congress,” he wrote. “It won’t happen during my presidency. Still, there are steps we can take now to save lives. And all of us – at every level of government, in the private sector and as citizens – have to do our part.”
Shown a video clip of himself wiping away tears as he announced his latest strategy earlier this week to try to boost background checks for gun buyers, Obama told CNN host Anderson Cooper that he had been surprised by his own emotion.
“It continues to haunt me, it was one of the worst days of my presidency,” Obama said of the attack on Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, in which 20 children and six adults died.
“I visited Newtown two days after what happened so it was still very raw. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen secret service cry on duty.”
Obama told the town hall meeting at George Mason University, Virginia – again reiterating a point from his column in the New York Times – that he would “not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support commonsense gun reform.”
“All of us need to demand leaders brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies,” he wrote.
Among the questioners on Thursday evening were Taya Kyle, whose late husband, US navy seal Chris Kyle, was depicted in the film American Sniper, and Cleo Pendleton, whose daughter was shot and killed near Obama’s Chicago home.
Kyle said laws would not stop people with criminal intent: “The problem is that they want to murder.”