President Obama Responds to Question About Gun Control

June 3rd 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

President Barack Obama's response to a pointed question about his gun control policy is going viral.


During the question and answer session of a PBS Newshour town hall in Elkhart, Indiana, gun shop owner Doug Rhude accused Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton of wanting to take guns away from the "good guys."

"Knowing that we apply common sense to other issues in our society, specifically like holding irresponsible people accountable for their actions when they drink and drive and kill somebody, and we do that without restricting control of cars and cells phones to the rest of us, the good guys, why then do you and Hillary want to control and restrict and limit gun manufacturers, gun owners and responsible use of guns and ammunition to the rest of us, the good guys, instead of holding the bad guys accountable for their actions?" — Doug Rhude

Rhude then referenced gun violence in Chicago, a city Obama once represented as the U.S. Senator from Illinois. Rhude said that the "good people" of Chicago should have easier access to firearms to protect themselves against the "thugs" and "drug dealers."

"And Mr. President if I may, I would like to use Chicago your hometown, a city that has the strictest gun laws in the nation, a city that for decades and still is under Democratic control, a city that has an outrageous and even embarrassing murder rate, as my first example. Why can't we round up these thugs, these drug dealers, and gang members, and hold them accountable for their actions, or allow the good people in Chicago access to firearms to protect themselves?"

Obama responded to Rhude's comments, point by point.

The president said that the popular accusation leveled by the National Rifle Association that he and other Democrats want to take guns away from everyone is completely false. He also said that a high number of guns were bought and sold during his administration.

"And well let me...It's a multi- part question so let me just say a couple things. First of all, the notion that I or Hillary or Democrats or whoever you want to choose are hell-bent on taking away folks’ guns is just not true. And I don’t care how many times the NRA says it. I’m about to leave office. There have been more guns sold since I have been president than just about any time in U.S. history. There are enough guns for every man, woman and child in this country. And at no point have I ever, EVER proposed confiscating guns from responsible gun owners. So it’s just not true." — President Barack Obama

The New York Times reports that gun sales have spiked at several points in Obama's presidency, though typically after he has hinted at proposing stricter gun control.

Obama then said that responsible gun legislation is exactly what he's proposed, and claimed that the NRA's rhetoric about gun rights has even prevented sensible gun laws that would stop domestic ISIS followers from buying guns.

"I just came from a meeting today in the Situation Room in which I got people who we know have been on ISIL Web sites, living here in the United States, U.S. citizens, and we’re allowed to put them on the no-fly list when it comes to airlines, but because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun.

This is somebody who is a known ISIL sympathizer. And if he wants to walk in to a gun store or a gun show right now and buy as much — as many weapons and ammo as he can, nothing’s prohibiting him from doing that, even though the FBI knows who that person is." — President Barack Obama

Obama said that the U.S. needs "common sense" gun laws that allow citizens to own guns but also prevent the wrong people from getting access to them. He said that the only way to reach that balance is to have better conversations about gun laws that don't result in arguments about the "destruction of the Second Amendment."

"So, sir, I just have to say, respectfully, that there is a way for us to have commonsense gun laws. There is a way for us to make sure that lawful, responsible gun owners like yourself are able to use them for sporting, hunting, protecting yourself, but the only way we’re going to do that is if we don’t have a situation in which anything that is proposed is viewed as some tyrannical destruction of the Second Amendment. And that’s how the issue too often gets framed." — President Barack Obama

The NRA has said in the past that Obama and Clinton want to "confiscate" guns through Australian-style gun buy back programs. The association has also routinely summarized Clinton's comments about gun control as a desire to to take everyone's guns.

"If you own a gun now, take heed. President Obama and now Hillary Clinton finally made clear what they’re really after – national gun confiscation," the NRA wrote on its website last year.

You can watch President Obama's full five minute response about gun control laws on the PBS Newshour Facebook page.

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