When President Obama gathered with voters at George Mason University to field questions and concerns about new gun control policies, one key stakeholder was noticeably absent: the National Rifle Association.
Thursday evening's prime-time town hall meeting was located in Fairfax, Va., which is also home to the NRA headquarters. President Obama delivered stinging blows to the group as he fielded questions from gun control supporters and opponents and blamed the lobby group for creating a false narrative over gun control. The president pointed to their absence during the meeting.
"Since this is the main reason they exist, you'd think that they'd be prepared to have a debate with the president," Obama told moderator Anderson Cooper.
NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam had said before the event that the NRA would not be participating in “a public relations spectacle orchestrated by the White House.”
The White House has portrayed the NRA, the nation’s largest gun group, as possessing too much influence in American politics – preventing bipartisan gun control laws from being passed, despite public approval from Americans. This portrayal is likely an example of President Obama’s pledge to “politicize” the issue of gun control to effect change.
Several NRA members were in the audience of the town hall meeting and the group's officials responded to the President’s answers via Twitter.
Other gun lobby groups, like the American Firearms Retailers Association, were present at the town hall meeting and participated in the discussion. They were joined by a string of high-profile figures in the gun control debate. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) of Arizona, who was shot in 2011, was present as was her husband Mark Kelly. Cleo Pendleton, whose daughter was killed in Chicago, asked a question about gun trafficking. And Taya Kyle, the late wife of Chris Kyle, whose actions were depicted in the film, “American Sniper,” voiced concerns over tighter gun control protecting Americans.
The town hall meeting followed new executive actions that tightened gun control by clarifying how firearms sellers are classified, requiring a license and background checks to be preformed on potential buyers.
This report includes material from The Associated Press.