President Obama participated in a town hall meeting tonight at George Mason University in an attempt to explain a new wave of executive actions his administration is taking to curb gun violence.
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During the forum he was confronted by a rape survivor who said that the president's actions were making it harder for her to keep her family safe. The president also called the notion that he is trying to take people's guns away a "conspiracy."
The president quickly emphasized that he has "respect" for people who want a gun for hunting and sportsmanship, but it "makes sense to keep guns out of hands of people who would do others harm."
Obama and moderator Anderson Cooper pointed out that the National Rifle Association was invited to participate in the forum, but declined to attend. Still, the president said he was "happy" to meet with the NRA to discuss his proposals.
"But the conversation has to be based on facts and truth and what we’re actually proposing, not some imaginary fiction in which Obama’s trying to take away your guns," Obama stressed.
The president fielded a question from Kimberly Corban, who was raped while she was in college and believes his executive actions would make it harder for her to protect herself and kids.
“I have been unspeakable victimized once already and I refuse to let that happen again to myself or my kids," she said. "So why can’t your administration see that these restrictions that you’re putting to make it harder for me to own a gun or harder for me to take that where I need to be is actually just making my kids and I less safe.”
“Your story is horrific,” Obama answered, crediting her for coming forward with her story. “There’s nothing we’ve proposed that would make it harder for you to purchase a firearm.”
The president said that his actions would make it harder for her assailant to acquire a weapon when he gets out of prison.
Obama also took a question from Mark Kelly, husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who recalled testifying in the Senate when second amendment advocates and senators warned him that the president's reforms to background checks would lead to a national gun registry. Kelly raised estimates that there are 365 million guns in 65 million locations.
"If the federal government wanted to confiscate those objects, how would they do that?" Kelly asked sarcastically.
"This notion of a conspiracy out there..." Obama began to answer when Anderson Cooper cut him off.
“Is it fair to call it a conspiracy?" Cooper interjected. "A lot of people really believe this deeply. They just don’t trust you.”
"I’m sorry, Cooper. Yes it is fair to call it a conspiracy," Obama shot back incredulously. "What are you saying? Are you suggesting that the notion that we are creating a plot to take everybody’s guns away so that we can impose martial law is [not] a conspiracy? Yes that is a conspiracy! I would hope that you would agree with that. Is that controversial?"
“I’m only going to be here for another year,” he added. “When would I have started on this enterprise, right?”
Obama told Cooper that he has never owned a gun, although he does "some skeet shooting" at Camp David with a 12-gauge shotgun, joking that he is not making claims about his marksmanship."
The president unveiled several measures earlier this week intended to advance his gun safety agenda by bypassing Congress.
The actions are designed to accomplish four goals: keep guns out of the wrong hands through expanded background checks, make communities safer, increase funds for mental health treatment by $500 million while improving reporting of background check system information and shape the future of gun technology.