President Barack Obama revealed tonight that he’s never owned a gun but said that doesn’t mean he’s spearheading a ‘conspiracy’ to take away other Americans’ constitutional right to purchase firearms.
‘I respect the Second Amendment,’ Obama said during a town hall hosted at George Mason University by CNN. ‘I respect the right to bear arms. I respect people who want a gun for self-protection, for hunting, for sportsmanship.’
The rhetoric around his gun control agenda, Obama said, ‘is so over the top, and so overheated.’
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President Barack Obama revealed tonight that he’s never owned a gun but said that doesn’t mean he wants to take away other Americans’ constitutional right to buy one
In the 75-minute prime-time event Obama took questions from Americans on both sides of the gun control debate, some of whom are known for their outspoken views on the issue. On the left is Kimberly Corban, who was raped in 2005 as a college student. On the right is Taya Kyle, the wife of American Sniper Chris Kyle
Astronaut Mark Kelly, not pictured who founded Americans for Responsible Solutions with his wife, Gabby Giffords, pictured, a former congresswoman who survived a potentially gun shout wound to the head in 2011, were also at the event
The town hall took place just down the road from the headquarters of the top gun lobbying group in the country – the National Rifle Association – but it declined to participate in the event.
‘I’ve said this repeatedly I’m happy to meet with them. I’m happy to talk to them,’ Obama said, ‘but the conversation has to be based on facts and truth and what we’re actually proposing, not some…imaginary fiction in which Obama is trying to take away your guns.’
He then proceeded to bash the organization, claiming during the town hall that it is has a ‘stranglehold’ on Congress in the gun debate.
Obama attributed spikes in gun sales after mass shootings in part on the NRA, which he says has ‘convinced many of its members that somebody is going to come grab your guns.’
Their messaging ‘is really is profitable for the gun manufacturers,’ he said, and ‘it’s a great advertising mechanism, but it’s not necessary.’
The Democratic president said that the NRA and many members of the Republican Party were previously in favor of background checks, and his ‘proposals are particularly radical.’
‘What’s changed is we’ve suddenly created an atmosphere in which I put out a proposal like background checks or…a proposal that is common sense, modest, does not claim to solve every problem, is respectful of the Second Amendment, and the way it is described is that we’re trying to take away everybody’s guns.’
Factoring into his decision to take CNN up on its offer to host the town hall, Obama said, was his belief that position ‘is consistently mischaracterized.’
‘Your story is horrific. The strength you’ve shown in telling your story and, you know, being here tonight is remarkable…really proud of you for that,’ Obama told Corban during the town hall. ‘I just want to repeat that there’s nothing that we’ve proposed that would make it harder for you to purchase a firearm.’ He’s seen here shaking her hand during a commercial break
‘And by the way, there’s a reason why the NRA is not here. They’re just down the street. And since this is the main reason they exist, you’d think that they’ be prepared to have a debate with the president,’ he said.
The NRA was not represented at the event by choice.
‘The National Rifle Association sees no reason to participate in a public relations spectacle orchestrated by the White House,’ spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told CNN.
The gun rights group initially claimed the White House ‘organized’ the event, but CNN says it did not.
The White House also stressed this week on every occasion the event has came up that the president’s only role in the town hall was a participant.
In the nearly 75-minutes at the prime-time event Obama took questions from Americans on both sides of the gun control debate, several of whom are known for their outspoken views on the issue.
Taya Kyle, the wife of ‘American Sniper’ Chris Kyle, astronaut Mark Kelly, who founded Americans for Responsible Solutions with his wife, Gabby Giffords, a former congresswoman who survived a potentially gun shout wound to the head in 2011, and Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu, now running for Congress as a Republican.
The president was also questioned by Kimberly Corban, who was raped during college and now favors fewer firearms restrictions.
‘Your story is horrific. The strength you’ve shown in telling your story and, you know, being here tonight is remarkable…really proud of you for that,’ Obama told Corban during the town hall. ‘I just want to repeat that there’s nothing that we’ve proposed that would make it harder for you to purchase a firearm.’
Obama said recalled during the town hall that when he was campaigning for office and he and Michelle visited farms in rural Iowa, his wife told him, ‘If I was living in a farmhouse where the sheriff’s department is pretty far away and somebody can just turn off the highway and come up to the farm, I’d want to have a shotgun or a rifle to make sure that I was protected and my family was protected.’
‘And she was absolutely right,’ he said. ‘And so part of the reason I think that this ends up being such a difficult issue is because people occupy different realities.’
A native of of Chicago, which has the highest murder rate in the country, Obama became familiar with the issue of gun violence as a legislator.
‘There are a whole bunch of law-abiding citizens who have grown up hunting with their dad or going to the shooting range, and are responsible gun-owners.
‘And then there’s the reality that there are neighborhoods around the country where it is easier for a 12 or a 13-year-old to purchase a gun and cheaper than it is for them to get a book,’ he said.
Ted Cruz has been displaying the message on his campaign website since President Barack Obama announced executive actions targeted at reducing gun violence
Kelly told Obama that he and his wife had United States senators tell them after they testified on gun violence on Capitol Hill ‘that expanding background checks will, not may, will lead to a registry, which will lead to confiscation which will lead to a tyrannical government.’
He asked Obama to explain how the federal government would confiscate 350 million firearms if it indeed wanted to.
In response, Obama said, ‘This notion of a conspiracy out there, and it gets wrapped up in concerns about the federal government, now there’s a long history of that. That’s in our DNA. The United States was born suspicious of some distant authority.’
Moderator Anderson Cooper interrupted the president to ask, ‘Is it fair to call it a conspiracy, because a lot of people really believe this deeply.’
‘They just don’t trust you,’ he said.
‘Yes, it is fair to call it a conspiracy,’ Obama said in disbelief. ‘What are you saying? Are you are suggesting that the notion that we are creating a plot to take everybody’s guns away so that we can impose martial law is not a conspiracy?’
The president again said, ‘Yes, that is a conspiracy,’ and told Cooper, ‘I would hope that you would agree with that.’
‘Is that controversial? Expect on some websites,’ Obama said.
Cooper told him that some Americans are concerned that he will ‘go further and further and further’ with gun regulations.
Obama laughed and told him, ‘I’m only gonna be here for another year? When when I have started on this enterprise?’
‘False claims’: The White House slapped down Cruz today – and Republicans making similar claims – about the president’s firearms directives
The president said that downstate Illinois is more like Kentucky than it is Chicago and has many hunters.
‘And so this is not like alien territory to me,’ he said.
‘It is a false notion that I believe is circulated for either political reasons or commercial reasons in order to prevent a coming together among people of good will to develop common sense rules that will make us safer while preserving the Second Amendment, ‘he said.
Obama said he’s not plotting ways to take away Americans’ freedoms.
‘Maybe when I propose that unsafe drugs are taken off the market, that secretly I am trying to control the entire drug industry or take peoples’ drugs away. But probably not,’ he said. ‘What’s more likely is I just want to make sure people are not dying by takin’ bad drugs.’
The White House slapped down Ted Cruz earlier today for telling his supporters, ‘Obama wants your guns.’
Cruz has been displaying the message on his campaign website since President Barack Obama announced executive actions targeted at reducing gun violence.
‘I think he’s appealing to people’s anxieties and insecurities and even outright fears in an attempt to win votes for his presidential campaign, and that’s unfortunate,’ White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said today. ‘In some cases it veers into the territory of being irresponsible.’
He added, ‘He’s not the only one, but he’s certainly one of them.’
Moderator Anderson Cooper interrupted the president to ask, ‘Is it fair to call it a conspiracy, because a lot of people really believe this deeply. They just don’t trust you,’ he said. ‘Yes, it is fair to call it a conspiracy,’ Obama said in disbelief. ‘What are you saying?’
Republican presidential candidates have been claiming this week that Obama’s directives, which primarily deal with background checks but also include components on mental health and tracking stolen firearms, are an assault on the Second Amendment.
‘Pretty soon you won’t be able to get guns,’ Donald Trump said on CNN. ‘I mean, it’s another step in the way of not getting guns.’
In a television ad released by his campaign on Tuesday, Marco Rubio referenced San Bernardino and said Obama’s plan to prevent future massacres from happening is to ‘take away our guns.’
Obama’s spokesman said this afternoon it’s a ‘false claim.’
In remarks at the White House on Tuesday morning in which he outlined the actions his administration is taking – which even the NRA mocked as relatively insignificant – the president said his critics are trying to ‘twist’ his words on firearms.
‘I believe in the Second Amendment. It’s there written on the paper. It guarantees a right to bear arms,’ he said. I taught constitutional law, I know a little about this. I get it.’
But he said, ‘I also believe that we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.’
Obama shed tears during the remarks as he talked about the 20 children who were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.
‘Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad,’ he said.
In remarks at the White House on Tuesday morning in which he outlined the actions his administration is taking – which even the National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest gun lobby, mocked as relatively insignificant – the president said his critics are trying to ‘twist’ his words on firearms
Tonight Cooper told him, ‘I think a lot of people were surprised by that moment.’
‘I was, too, actually. You know, 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,’ he said.
That day ‘continues to haunt me,’ Obama said. ‘It was one of the worst days of my presidency.’
He added, ‘I want to emphasize that there are a lot of tragedies that happen out there as a consequence of the victims of crime. There are police officers who are out there laying down their lives to protect us every single day.’
‘And tears are appropriate for them as well, and I visit with those families…victims of terrorism, soldiers coming home…there’s a lot of heartache out there,’ the president said. ‘And I don’t suggest that this is the only kind of heartache we should be working on.’
Obama was responding to House Speaker Paul Ryan, who on Wednesday, during an interview with Yahoo, said of Sandy Hook, ‘I was affected by it, but I thought we should’ve had the same kind of reaction when James Foley was beheaded, when San Bernardino and Paris occurred.’
‘That’s the kind of reaction I had when those occurred.’
The statement sparked a war of words between the speaker’s office and the White House, with Earnest telling reporters today, ‘If Speaker Ryan felt so strongly about the situation that he just described when it comes to ISIL, you’d think he’d actually be in a position to point to something he’s done about it.’
Republican presidential candidates have been claiming this week that Obama’s directives, which primarily deal with background checks but also include components on mental health and tracking stolen firearms, are an assault on the Second Amendment
The White House and Republicans on Capitol Hill have been sparring all week over his gun control proposals.
The president is asking Congress for $500 million to be put toward increasing access to mental health. He’s also directed his administration to remove hurdles that prevent the government from including mental health flags in the background check process.
Obama likewise wants money from lawmakers to hire 200 new agents in the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agency to aid the agency in enforcing current gun laws.
Regardless of whether Congress approves the increase in staffing, the president has ordered the agency to send out new guidance on which firearms dealers are considered to be ‘in the business of selling firearms’ and therefore required to obtain a license.
Along with a license, those sellers, which the administration now says includes individuals who do not have a physical store and only sell at gun shows or online, must perform background checks before money can exchange hands.
Tonight the president promoted the measures during a ‘Guns in America’ town hall hosted by CNN and moderated by Anderson Cooper.
CNN controlled the event and the audience and advocates for and against new gun control measures took turn asking the president questions.
‘I think the president is frankly looking forward to talking to people on both sides of this issue,’ Earnest said this afternoon.
Earnest said that if somebody ‘repeats that false claim’ that Obama wants to take their guns, ‘I think the president will repeat once again his belief in and commitment to the Second Amendment of the Constitution that the constitutional rights of law abiding Americans are worth protecting.’