The National Rifle Association is refusing to meet with President Obama in what was meant to be a conversation to find common ground between the gun rights group and gun control activists. On Sunday, Obama called for "a new discussion" about gun policy in an op-ed in The Arizona Daily Star in response to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Now, NRA president Wayne LaPierre tells The New York Times' Jackie Calmes, “Why should I or the N.R.A. go sit down with a group of people that have spent a lifetime trying to destroy the Second Amendment in the United States?”
In his Arizona Daily Star op-ed, Obama nodded to the NRA's famous "guns don't kill people, people kill people" slogan by saying he wanted to make the gun discussion to “focus on the people, not the guns.” Calmes notes that Obama cribbed another talking point from the gun lobby: “First, we should begin by enforcing laws that are already on the books.”
Despite these rhetorical concessions, the president doesn't appear to be getting any points with gun rights supporters. The president argued that it should be harder for someone like suspected Giffords shooter Jared Lee Loughner, who appears to be mentally ill, to purchase guns and ammunition. But Jacob Sullum at libertarian Reason argues that more accurate background checks wouldn't have stopped Loughner. Sure, the Army turned down Loughner after he failed a drug test, but "people who are rejected for military service or thrown out of community college are still allowed to own firearms, and Obama does not propose changing the factors that disqualify people from buying guns," Sullum writes. And only in hindsight does Loughner's behavior presage violence--most people who encountered him thought of him as a nuisance. Yet Obama argues that a beefed-up version of the current system would have stopped Loughner. "Which is worse: that Obama believes this (assuming he does) or that he expects us to believe it?" Sullum asks.
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