Obama tears into gun lobby

2016-01-08 11:01
President Barack Obama answers questions during a town hall meeting at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

President Barack Obama answers questions during a town hall meeting at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

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Fairfax - President Barack Obama tore into the nation's largest gun lobby on Thursday as he sought support for his actions on gun control, accusing the powerful lobby group of peddling an "imaginary fiction" that he said has distorted the national debate about gun violence.

In a prime-time, televised forum, Obama dismissed what he called a "conspiracy" alleging that the federal government - and Obama in particular - wants to seize all firearms as a precursor to imposing martial law. He blamed that notion on the National Rifle Association and like-minded groups that convince its members that "somebody's going to come grab your guns."

"Yes, that is a conspiracy," Obama said. "I'm only going to be here for another year. When would I have started on this enterprise?"

Gun ownership

Obama defended his support for the constitutional right to gun ownership while arguing it was consistent with his efforts to curb violence and mass shootings. He said the NRA was refusing to acknowledge the government's responsibility to make legal products safer, citing seatbelts and child-proof medicine bottles as examples.

Obama said he's always been willing to meet with the NRA - if they're willing to address the facts. He said the NRA was invited to the forum but declined to participate. Several NRA members were in the audience for the forum, which was organised and hosted by CNN.

"There's a reason why the NRA's not here. They're just down the street," Obama said, referring to the group's nearby headquarters. "Since this is a main reason they exist, you'd think that they'd be prepared to have a debate with the president."

The White House has sought to portray the NRA, the nation's largest gun group, as possessing a disproportionate influence over lawmakers that has prevented new gun laws despite polls that show broad US support for measures like universal background checks.

Last year, following a series of mass shootings, Obama pledged to "politicise" the issue in an attempt to level the playing field for gun control supporters.

NRA spokesperson Andrew Arulanandam said ahead of the event that the group saw "no reason to participate in a public relations spectacle orchestrated by the White House." Still, the group pushed back on Obama in real time on Twitter, noting in one tweet that "none of the president's orders would have stopped any of the recent mass shootings."

Personal security

The American Firearms Retailers Association, another lobby group that represents gun dealers, did participate. Asked how business had been since Obama took office, Kris Jacob replied: "It's been busy.

"There's a very serious concern in this country about personal security," he added.

Obama's actions on guns have drawn major attention in the presidential campaign, with the Democratic candidates backing Obama and the Republicans unanimously voicing opposition. Donald Trump, addressing a rally in Vermont just as Obama was in Virginia, said he would eliminate gun-free zones in schools on his first day if elected to the White House.

"You know what a gun-free zone is for a sicko? That's bait," Trump told the crowd.


Read more on:    barack obama  |  us

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