Full HD Video - CNN's Guns in America Town Hall - US President Barack Obama Town Hall
Published on Jan 7, 2016
During CNN's Guns in America town hall, President Barack Obama answers the questions
President Barack Obama rejected the "imaginary fiction" that he wanted to take away the guns of law-abiding Americans during a town hall meeting on his gun policies aired on CNN Thursday night.
"The way it is described, is that we are trying to take away everybody's guns," Obama said, charging that his opponents had twisted his plans on gun safety measures.
"Our position is consistently mischaracterized," Obama said. "If you listen to the rhetoric, it is so over-the-top, it is so overheated."
The town hall was a rare forum for a President who is entering his final full year in office. He fielded questions from those who support his actions, including a priest and victims of gun violence at the "Guns in America" special. But he also heard from a wide range of advocates opposed to his policies, including a gun executive, a sheriff, a rape survivor and a widow who criticized his executive actions that would, among other things, narrow the so-called "gun-show loophole" on background checks.
The President also said that he would be happy to meet with representatives of the National Rifle Association, which declined to take part in the town hall meeting even though other gun rights advocates did attend. But he said the conversation would have to be based on facts, "not some imaginary fiction in which Obama is trying to take away your guns."
He dismissed such accusations as conspiracies, and that the notion that he would be paving the way for eventual martial law as absurd given that he didn't have much time left in the White House.
"I'm only going to be here for another year," he said.
Obama is headlining the "Guns in America" event exclusively on CNN to press for public support for the executive measures he announced on Tuesday. In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Obama attributed some of the tensions over the issue to divergent perceptions on gun ownership between rural and inner city communities.
"Part of the reason, I think, that this ends up being such a difficult issue is because people occupy different realities," he said.
The President opened the event by acknowledging that he himself has never owned a gun and had little experience with them, stemming in part from his upbringing in Hawaii, where he said sport shooting is not as popular as in other parts of the country.
He then disputed the notion that most criminals got guns illegally or through personal connections, making background checks -- a major focus on his policy initiative on guns -- of little utility.
"All of us can agree that It makes sense to do everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of people who would do others harm, or themselves harm," he said.
He called on Congress to set up a system that is "efficient" and doesn't inconvenience lawful gun owners to create a background check system that would stem at least some illegal gun activity.
"The fact that the system doesn't catch every single person ... has to be weighed against the fact that we might be able to save a whole bunch of families from the grief that some of the people in this audience have had to go through," he said.
He made a similar argument in response to a question from Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu, who said that the executive actions wouldn't have prevented the mass shootings that prompted much of Obama's push for greater gun control.
"How are we going to get them to follow the laws?" Babeu asked of those who commit gun crimes.
After Babeu was introduced as a Republican running for Congress, Obama responded with a hint of sarcasm as he wished him good luck in his race.