During his Jan. 7 town hall, U.S. President Barack Obama chastised the National Rifle Association (NRA) for not engaging in discussions on common sense gun policies to curb mass shootings (video below).
The president, while being interviewed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, said that the White House had invited the NRA to talks several times and that they had been ignored.
“I am happy to talk to them, but the conversation has to be based on facts and truth,” Obama said, according to The Huffington Post. The president said that instead of having a dialogue, the NRA has chosen to “mischaracterize” his intentions and policies that impact gun owners.
“And by the way, there’s a reason why the NRA is not here,” Obama added, referencing the noticeably absent executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, Chris Cox. “They’re just down the street. This is the reason they exist. You’d think they’d be willing to have a debate with the president.”
The president said that “this notion of a conspiracy out there” that he plans on confiscating all 350 million firearms from U.S. citizens has been incredibly damaging to getting any gun safety measures passed in Congress, according to USA Today.
Obama acknowledged that the conspiracy is born out of Americans’ innate distrust of authority.
“There’s a long history of that, that’s in our DNA, you know? The U.S. was born suspicious of some distant authority.”
The NRA managing director of public affairs, Andrew Arulanandam, dismissed Obama’s criticism, stating that his organization “sees no reason to participate in a public relations spectacle orchestrated by the White House.”
Meanwhile, Cox, instead of participating in the town hall, appeared on Fox News, where he accused Obama of “trying to create an illusion that he’s doing something to keep people safe.”
Cox derided Obama’s push for more effective background checks for gun purchases in response to the Dec. 2, 2015 San Bernardino terror attack, calling it a ploy “to impose more gun control on law-abiding Americans.”
The NRA official said that his participation in the town hall would have only been one agreed-upon question.
“I’m not really interested in going over and talking to the president who doesn’t have a basic level of respect or understanding of the Second Amendment and law-abiding gun owners in this country.”
The NRA also live-tweeted during Obama’s town hall, according to The Huffington Post.
“It’s true: None of the president’s orders would have stopped any of the recent mass shootings,” the organization tweeted.