NRA: 'We Were Offered One Pre-Screened Question' at CNN's Town Hall on Guns

By Susan Jones | January 8, 2016 | 11:29 AM EST

President Barack Obama participates in a CNN televised town hall meeting hosted by Anderson Cooper at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) - The National Rifle Association refused to take part in CNN's prime time town hall on guns Thursday night, much to the disgust of President Obama, who used the prime-time opportunity to plug his new executive action on background checks.

"And by the way, there's a reason why the NRA is not here," Obama told host Anderson Cooper. "They're just down the street. And since this is the main reason they exist, you'd think they'd be prepared to have a debate with...a president."

Chris Cox, the director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, went on Fox News Thursday night to explain why his organization stayed away

"Did we participate in CNN's event tonight? No, we didn't," Cox told Megyn Kelly. "We were offered one pre-screened question. Megyn, I know that you don't send your questions over to the White House, so I'd rather have a conversation with you that's intellectually honest than sit through a lecture and get one opportunity to ask a pre-screened question."

"Does it make sense to meet with him (Obama)?" Kelly asked Cox.

"And talk about what, Megyn?" he responded. "This president can talk about background checks all day long, but that's nothing more than a distraction away from the fact that he can't keep us safe, and he supported every gun control proposal that's ever been made. He doesn't support the individual right to own a firearm -- that's been the position of his Supreme Court nominees, that's been the position of his administration -- so what are we going to talk about, basketball?

"I'm not really interested in talking to the president who doesn't have a basic level of respect or understanding of the Second Amendment and law-abiding gun owners in this country."

During the town hall, Obama said he's "repeatedly" invited NRA leaders to the White House; then he complained that the NRA's rhetoric is "so over-the-top" and "so overheated."

Anderson Cooper asked Obama, "Just so I'm clear, tonight you're saying you would welcome (a chance) to meet with the NRA?"

"Anderson, I've said this repeatedly, I'm happy to meet with them. I'm happy to talk to them, but, the conversation has to be based on facts and truth, and what we're actually proposing, not some -- you know, imaginary fiction in which Obama's trying to take away your guns."

Cox told Kelly that the National Rifle Association "does more to teach safe and responsible gun ownership than this president ever has or ever will."

He noted that the killers in many recent mass murders all passed the kind of background check that Obama aims to expand through stricter enforcement. Cox also cited Justice Department statistics showing that only 0.7 percent of killers get their weapons at gun shows.

"This president, in his 8th year, has decided he wants to talk about doing something about prosecutions in this country. He has overseen a 40 percent decrease -- a 40 percent decrease -- in the prosecution of criminal misuse of firearms. At the same time, as if that's not bad enough, he's going back and releasing armed criminals who have been successfully prosecuted and sent to jail," Cox said.

"[H]e's no longer credible to speak to the issues of law-abiding gun owners."

Asked what the NRA would do to prevent shootings like the one at Newtown, Conn., Cox said the NRA believes that school children should be protected "the same way we protect our presidents, our politicians, our athletes and our money in our banks, and that's with armed security officers. Armed security officers protecting our kids at school."

Cox also noted that unlike Obama, the NRA has been urging mental health reform for years.

"This president, in year eight, has decided he wants to have a conversation -- welcome to the party. The National Rifle Association's been trying to have this conversation for years. So have Republicans in Congress...but this president was more interested in defeating the NRA than defeating crime, defeating a mental health problem, and ultimately defeating terrorism.

"It's a shame but it's what we've come to expect out of this president."

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