President Obama spent Thursday evening defending the executive actions on gun control he announced earlier this week during a town hall discussion on CNN.
Sitting down with Anderson Cooper for the live event, the President got personal on one of the lingering issues he’s had yet to get a substantial grasp on while occupying the Oval Office.
The White House said Wednesday the President was looking forward to using the event as an opportunity to engage with Americans on both sides of the gun debate.
“The President has often said that we can disagree without being disagreeable,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
And on Thursday, Obama did just that — on more than one occasion he was grilled on whether or not the executive actions he has proposed would infringe on the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
“There really is nothing that we’re proposing that makes it harder for you to purchase a firearm if you need one,” Obama told a rape survivor who asked why the administration was attempting to make her and her kids feel less safe.
Obama also defended his stance on the Second Amendment, which has been repeatedly called into question by those on the right and those within the pro-gun community.
“I respect the Second Amendment,” Obama said. “I respect people who want a gun for self protection, for hunting, for sportsmanship, but all of us can agree it makes sense to keep guns out of the hands of people who want to do others harm or do themselves harm.”
The town hall drew criticism from the gun lobby earlier on Thursday. The National Rifle Association, which was invited to the town hall, issued a statement to CNN saying the organization “sees no reason to participate in a public relations spectacle orchestrated by the White House.” Both the White House and CNN have said the network, not the Obama administration, organized the event.
Read more: Why President Obama Cries Over Gun Control
Despite the NRA’s apparent absence, Obama addressed the organization early in the discussion with Cooper saying he’d be “happy” to talk to the group about gun control at the White House.
“But the conversation has to be based on facts and truth and what we’re actually proposing,” Obama said. “Not some imaginary fiction in which Obama is trying to take away your guns.”
Obama suggested that the NRA benefitted from convincing its members that the government is after their firearms, saying, “every time there is a mass shooting gun sales spike.”
The President spoke Thursday after spending the entire week engaging on the topic of guns. On Friday, he’ll convene on the topic in a conference call with grassroots organizers.
The President’s recent gun control push comes after years of failed efforts to pass legislation on the issue. Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, which left 20 children and 6 adults dead, Obama vowed to do whatever it would take to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and prevent future mass shootings. But the gun reforms he championed were rejected by Congress.
That legislative failure eventually prompted Obama this week to bypass lawmakers and create some reforms using executive orders.
Flanked by family members of victims of mass shootings, gun violence, and suicides, Obama Tuesday announced a series of executive actions including expanding background checks, adding law enforcement jobs, and increasing funding to address mental health issues. The President acknowledged that his actions will not end mass shootings, but said they were a step toward reducing gun violence.
“We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world,” Obama said. “But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.”
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