Washington: In an aggressive push for tighter gun controls, President Barack Obama took his case to the nation and vowed not to back any candidate “even in my own party who does not support common-sense gun reform.”
Rejecting the “imaginary fiction” that he wanted to take away the guns of law-abiding Americans, Obama charged his opponents at a live television event Thursday night with twisting his plans on gun safety measures.
“The way it is described, is that we are trying to take away everybody’s guns,” Obama said. “If you listen to the rhetoric, it is so over-the-top, it is so overheated.”
Obama appeared on the “Guns in America” event to press for public support for the executive measures on gun control he announced Tuesday. He 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,” Obama 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.
Ahead of the event, Obama pledged in a New York Times op-ed not to “campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party who does not support common-sense gun reform.”
Though Obama has made clear he will continue advocating for gun control throughout the remainder of his second term, the president admitted defeat saying it’s clear gun reform will not happen in this Congress or his presidency.
Still, he wrote, the whole of the US has a collective responsibility to confront the crisis.
The two leading Democratic candidates for President, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, expressed support for the executive actions, making it unlikely that Obama’s ultimatum would affect a member of Obama’s party.
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump held a rally in Burlington, Vermont, at the same time as the forum and weighed in on the issue of firearms, attacking the idea of gun-free zones, though it wasn’t a topic raised by Obama or other participants Thursday night.
“You know what a gun-free zone is to a sicko? That’s bait!” he said. “I would get rid of gun-free zones on my first day. It gets signed.”
A CNN/ORC poll released earlier Thursday evening found that a majority of the public supports the measures that Obama outlined this week but less than half of Americans think they will actually work.
Support for the measures crosses party lines, with 67 percent of those asked saying they favour the changes. But 57 percent of those polled also said that the measures would not be effective in reducing the number of people killed by guns.
Obama renewed his push for gun regulations following a spree of mass shootings last year, including a one orchestrated by a radicalised Pakistani-origin couple in San Bernardino, California, in December in which 14 people were killed.