Referencing the Tucson shootings in January, President Obama wrote an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star on Sunday that called on all sides of the guns and gun control issues to come together “to find a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place.” As part of that strategy, the Obama administration said this week that it will invite National Rifle Association officials to participate in closed-door meetings to explore a way forward.
However, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre immediately rejected that offer. “Why should I or the N.R.A. go sit down with a group of people that have spent a lifetime trying to destroy the Second Amendment in the United States?” he asked, adding, “It shouldn’t be a dialogue about guns; it really should be a dialogue about dangerous people.”
Putting aside LaPierre’s posturing on the Second Amendment, it’s telling the NRA is not willing to state a substantive disagreement with Obama. The Post reported:
LaPierre said he favored much of what Obama endorsed in his op-ed, but he charged that the president was targeting gun ownership for political reasons rather than addressing the “underlying issue” of “madmen in the streets.”
The NYT similarly reported:
Despite his opposition to joining the administration’s table, by his comments in an interview Mr. LaPierre sounded at times like the White House.
Echoing NRA arguments, an Obama administration official told the NYT they want to redefine the gun debate to “focus on the people, not the guns” and they want to “begin by enforcing laws that are already on the books.” Nevertheless, the NRA is unwilling to be appeased.
So why is Wayne LaPierre misrepresenting Obama’s views and rejecting his olive branch? Since everyone seems to agree on a path forward, the answer seems to be quite clear: money and self-preservation. Since President Obama took office, the NRA has benefited significantly in increased membership, due primarily to baseless and unfounded fears actively promoted by NRA officials, supporters and sympathizers, that Obama wants to eliminate the Second Amendment and take away everyone’s guns.
The NRA tells its members not to believe Obama when he says he supports the Second Amendment. It’s no wonder then that rank-and-file NRA members think Obama wants to “get rid of all the guns,” “has no respect for the country,” is “an idiot,” and “anti-American.”
A poll in the aftermath of the Tucson shooting found that Americans agree with Obama’s approach, finding that large majorities support stricter background checks. Recent polling also found that “over 80% of public – including over 70% of gun owners – in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Ohio and Virginia, support tougher laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”