Clarifying that he “respects the second amendment,” the president also called out the National Rifle Association, who he said he’d be happy to meet with, as he’s invited them to the White House numerous times.
“Our position is consistently mischaracterized. If you listen to the rhetoric, it is so over-the-top, it is so overheated,” he said. “The way it is described, is that we are trying to take away everybody’s guns.”
He added, that he’d be more than willing to have a discussion with the NRA so long as it was based on facts, “not some imaginary fiction in which Obama is trying to take away your guns.”
Rather, the president said, what his administration is trying to do is enforce the gun laws that already exist – emphasizing that he cannot create new laws, “only congress can do that” – while also closing “what has grown into a massive loophole.”
The loophole being individual gun sales that occur at auctions and gun shows from unlicensed dealers.
Obama faced many tough questions from the audience members – including Taya Kyle, the widow of Navy Seal Chris Kyle who was portrayed in American Sniper.
In her question, Taya Kyle mentioned that criminals have no moral code so instead of focusing on keeping the guns away why not focus on the progress we’ve made – having the lowest murder and crime rate in years.
The president acknowledged that increased enforcement of gun laws will not necessarily keep criminals from getting guns, but at the very least will make them harder to obtain.
“Crime is always going to be with us,” he said. “It’s important for us not to suggest that if we can’t solve every crime we shouldn’t solve any crime. This is not a recipe for solving every problem. The goal here is just to make progress.”
Echoing his announcement on Monday, Obama referenced the Newtown school shooting, comparing it to a similar tragedy in China in which the attacker had a knife rather than a gun, which, he said, made the attack less fatal.
“All of us are interested in fighting crime. Nobodies saying that we need to be going soft on criminals,” he said. “The challenge we have is that in many instances you don’t know ahead of time who is going to be a criminal.
“The young man who killed those kids in Newtown, he didn’t have a criminal record. So, we didn’t know ahead of time, necessarily, that he was going to do something like that. But he had access to an arsenal that allowed him, in very short order, to kill a classroom full of children. Are there ways for us to make it less lethal when something like that happens?”
In an attempt to drive his point home, Obama repeatedly compared gun control laws to the improvements that have been made in car safety, noting that as technology has improved, so have the laws surrounding drivers; based on the recommendations of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Because of those safety laws, like making seat belts and air bags mandatory, he said, deaths from traffic collisions have decreased.
While the president cited the decline in automobile deaths, he also added that they’re not 100 percent preventable, but safety laws have made them less lethal; similar to what he’d like to do with guns.
Obama drove his point home adding that other than guns, there is nothing that Americans purchase that they don’t try to make safer.
“The notion that we would not apply the same basic principle to gun ownership to everything else that we own, just to try to make them safer, or the notion that anything we try to do to make them safer is a plot to take away guns– that contradicts what we try to make a better life for Americans in every other area of our lives,” Obama said. “If it doesn’t infringe on your second amendment rights and you’re still able to get a firearm for your protection, why wouldn’t we want to do that?”
A new CNN poll found that 67 percent of Americans support Obama’s new gun control measures. Most, however, said they opposed the way the president made the changes.
In a New York Times op-ed published on Thursday, Obama wrote that the epidemic of gun violence in America is our “shared responsibility.” “All of us have a role to play, including gun owners” and the gun industry, he wrote.
The president also vowed that he “will not campaign for, vote for, or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform.”