- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 7, 2016

President Obama accused the National Rifle Association on Thursday night of frightening gun owners into believing that his gun control proposals are aimed at confiscating their firearms.

During a prime-time, nationally televised town-hall meeting on gun violence, Mr. Obama said the gun rights group has “consistently mischaracterized” his position on guns.

“If you listen to the rhetoric, it is so over the top,” Mr. Obama said. “Every time there’s a mass shooting, gun sales spike. The NRA has convinced many of its members that somebody’s going to come grab their guns.”

The NRA declined to declined to participate in the event hosted by CNN at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, not far from the NRA’s headquarters. A spokesman said the NRA didn’t want to send a representative to a public relations “spectacle” arranged by the White House.

Mr. Obama said, “There’s a reason why the NRA isn’t here.” He implied that the group didn’t want to work with him.

“They’re just down the street,” the president said. “I’m happy to meet with them. But the conversation has to be based on facts and truth not some imaginary fiction in which Obama’s trying to take away your guns.”

Mr. Obama on Tuesday announced more executive actions to restrict gun ownership, including expanded background checks for firearms purchases to cover more online sales and other transactions. Gun control advocates said his moves will save lives, but gun rights groups said the steps will have no impact on gun violence but could prevent some law-abiding citizens from obtaining firearms.

The president said he intends to make gun control a campaign issue as he works for congressional candidates this year. “I’m going to throw my shoulders behind folks who want to actually solve problems instead of just getting a high score from an interest group,” he said.

Shortly before the town-hall event, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s office released a list of criticisms of Mr. Obama’s executive actions. The Wisconsin Republican said the measure wouldn’t have prevented recent mass shootings, are “nothing new” compared with laws already on the books, are an attempt to “intimidate” law-abiding gun owners and serve as a “distraction from the president’s disastrous policies.”

“We won’t let this take us off course,” the speaker’s office said.

During the town-hall meeting, Mr. Obama took questions from several gun rights advocates, including Taya Kyle, widow of Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL who was the subject of the movie “American Sniper.” She told the president that his proposals would hurt law-abiding Americans while failing to prevent criminals from obtaining guns.

“People who are murdering are breaking the law, and also don’t have a moral code,” she said. “It’s not that I think somebody’s going to take my gun from me, but I want the hope to protect myself. Why not celebrate that we’re good people, and 99.9 percent of us are never going to kill anyone?”

Mr. Obama replied, “You will be able to purchase a firearm. There is away for us to set up a system where you, a responsible gun owner can have a firearm to protect yourself, but where it is much harder to fill up a car with guns and sell them to 13-year-old kids on the streets.”

Kimberly Corban, a rape survivor who said she is an NRA advocate, told the president that his proposals are “actually making my kids and I less safe.” She said she wants to be assured that she has the ability to protect herself and her family.

The president responded, “There’s nothing that we’ve proposed that would make it harder for you to purchase a firearm.”

Among those in the audience of about 100 was former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who survived a gun attack in 2011, and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly.

Mr. Kelly asked the president, “With 350 million guns in 65 million places, households if the federal government wanted to confiscate those objects, how would they do that?”

The president said his opponents who deliberately put out “conspiracy theories” of the government confiscating weapons are stopping efforts at finding common ground on guns.

“I’m only going to be here for another year,” Mr. Obama scoffed. “When would I have started on this enterprise?”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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