Obama lashes out at NRA for skipping town hall on guns

President Obama on Thursday tore into the National Rifle Association (NRA) for skipping a live televised town hall on gun violence.

Obama said he accepted CNN’s invitation to the town hall because his support for gun control is “consistently mischaracterized” by gun-rights advocates like the NRA.

“There’s a reason why the NRA’s not here. They’re just down the street,” Obama said, growing visibly angry. “And since this is the main reason they exist, you’d think they be prepared to have a debate with the president."

The president said the NRA has declined multiple invitations to come to the White House or have a dialogue. 

“I’m happy to meet with them,” he said. 

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Obama is in a pitched battle with gun-rights activists and Republicans over his executive orders designed to expand background checks for firearm purchases.

The president says the “commonsense” measures could prevent mass shootings, which have cast a cloud over his presidency. But Republicans have blasted the measures as an abuse of power and threatened to do all they can to block them. 

“If you listen to the rhetoric, it is so over the top, so overheated,” Obama said, dismissing his opponents' claims that his policies are an effort “to take away everybody’s guns."

The NRA on Wednesday said it would not attend the town hall event, which CNN said includes supporters and opponents of the president’s agenda. 

"The National Rifle Association sees no reason to participate in a public relations spectacle orchestrated by the White House," NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told the network.

This story was updated at 8:39 p.m.