WASHINGTON – America’s most prominent pro-gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association, says it will not take part in a debate with President Barack Obama later Thursday.
Obama will appear in a town hall-style event designed to rally support for executive measures regulating the sale and purchase of weapons.
“The National Rifle Association sees no reason to participate in a public relations spectacle orchestrated by the White House,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told the event host, CNN.
Earlier this week a tearful Obama said he would bypass Congress and take limited measures to tackle U.S. gun violence.
Flanked by survivors of the violence that kills around 30,000 Americans every year, and relatives of some of those killed, Obama became emotional as he remembered 20 elementary school children shot dead three years ago in Newtown, Connecticut.
“Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad,” the president said, struggling to collect himself. “So all of us need to demand a Congress brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama was keen to have a discussion with anyone, including those who believe he is infringing on their constitutional right to bear arms.
“We certainly are looking forward to having the opportunity to engage in that discussion with people who are interested in participating in it,” he said.
Obama’s proposals have prompted a fierce response from Republicans looking to replace him in the White House.
Sen. Ted Cruz has emailed supporters an image of Obama in combat uniform, complete with helmet, claiming “Obama wants your guns,” while canvasing for campaign support.
The White House called that message “irresponsible.”
“I think he’s appealing to people’s anxieties and insecurities and even outright fears in an attempt to win votes for his presidential campaign,” said Earnest.
“That’s unfortunate, in some cases it veers into the territory of being irresponsible. But, you know, ultimately, that’s clearly what he’s up to.”