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Obama: NRA rejected invitations to the White House "repeatedly"

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (L) looks toward U.S. President Barack Obama during a meeting with top law enforcement officials to discuss what executive actions he can take to curb gun violence, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington January 4, 2016.

REUTERS

President Obama on Thursday evening slammed the National Rifle Association for rejecting opportunities to discuss gun violence with him. He also accused the powerful gun lobby group for purveying the myth that he's interested in taking away Americans' guns.

"We have invited them repeatedly, but if you listen to the rhetoric, it is so over the top, and so overheated," the president said during a town hall event sponsored by CNN. "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."

Mr. Obama noted that gun sales in the U.S. typically spike whenever he introduces a new rule regarding guns, or whenever there's a mass shooting.

"Part of the reason is that the NRA has convinced many of its members that somebody's going to come grab your guns, which is by the way, really profitable for the gun manufacturers," he said.

The president ranted that the idea is obviously nothing more than a conspiracy theory.

"The notion that we are creating a plot to take everybody's guns away so that we can impose martial law... Yes, that is a conspiracy! I would hope that would agree with that," he said. "Look, I mean, I'm only going to be here for another year. I don't know -- when would I have started on this enterprise, right?"

The conspiracy theory is circulated, he said, "for either political reasons or commercial reasons in order to prevent a coming-together among people of goodwill to develop commonsense rules that will make us safer while preserving the Second Amendment."

The president used the event to defend and explain the series of executive actions he announced earlier in the week in an attempt to reduce gun violence. Some have argued that his plan to make background checks for gun purchases more robust won't stop gun violence, since a small percentage of criminals purchase guns at gun shows.

The president responded that those criminals illegally purchase weapons from others who should've been subject to background checks.

In Chicago, he said, "about 30 percent, 40 percent of those guns are coming from Indiana across the border, where there are much laxer laws, and so folks will go to a gun show and purchase a whole bunch of firearms, put them in a van, drive up [to] the South Side of Chicago... open up the trunk, and those things are for sale."

"Now, technically, you could say those folks bought them illegally," je continued, "but it was facilitated by the fact that what used to be a small exception that said collectors and hobbyists don't need to go through a background check has become this massive industry."

Mr. Obama also addressed the issue of gun violence in a New York Times op-ed Thursday.

"Even as I continue to take every action possible as president, I will also take every action I can as a citizen," he wrote. "I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform."

While the candidates running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination all support gun reform policies, the Republican candidates have rejected the president's approach. Also on Thursday night, GOP front runner Donald Trump promised to eliminate all gun-free zones, like schools and military bases.