The US president has stepped up his rhetoric against the nation's biggest pro-gun lobby. He has also pledged to withhold support for Democrats who oppose his new regulation laws.
A combative Barack Obama took to television late on Thursday to cement support for his new raft of firearms control measures. In the prime-time, town-hall style forum, the US president not only tore into the gun lobby but also his own party members who are against gun regulation.
"I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform," Obama wrote in a New York Times opinion piece ahead of his appearance on CNN.
Controversially, the president has opted to bypass a Congress unlikely to support his legislation and proposed to force through new background check laws and tighter controls on gun sales via executive action.
The televised debate featured questions from gun owners, some of whom were wary that Obama planned to revoke the right to ownership of the some 350 million firearms in private hands in the United States. The president said this was a misconception, and blamed critics of gun control for having "mischaracterized" his position.
"It is a conspiracy," Obama said. "I'm only going to be here for another year," adding that he has "been president for over seven years and gun sales don't seem to have suffered during that time."
Obama calls out NRA cowardice
The real force of the president's ire was focused on the National Rifle Association (NRA), the nation's largest gun lobby. In a country where 30,000 people die every year by guns, Obama accused the group of being too skittish to participate in the debate despite the proximity of their national headquarters to Washington.
"There is a reason why the NRA is not here," Obama said. "They are just down the street. And since this is the main reason they exist, you'd think they would be prepared to have a debate with the president."
Pushing back in real time on Twitter, the NRA said that "none of the president's orders would have stopped any of the recent mass shootings," such as those in San Bernardino and Sandy Hook, to which Obama tearfully referred while unveiling the new laws on Tuesday.
A CNN poll showed that 67 percent of Americans support the new measure, which would strengthen background checks ahead of gun sales and clamp down on the illegal purchasing of weapons through an intermediary.
es/ng (AFP, AP)