President takes aim at NRA as Sandy Hook families take on the gu - WFSB 3 Connecticut

President takes aim at NRA as Sandy Hook families take on the gun debate

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President Obama held a town hall meeting about his gun control plan on Thursday night. (CNN photo) President Obama held a town hall meeting about his gun control plan on Thursday night. (CNN photo)
Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden talk with Eyewitness News ahead of the town hall meeting. (WFSB) Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden talk with Eyewitness News ahead of the town hall meeting. (WFSB)

President Barack Obama announced, earlier this week, he had a plan to stop gun violence and on Thursday night, he informed people about that plan during a town hall meeting.

The president's meeting at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA took place at 8 p.m.

During it, he took aim at the National Rifle Association. He dismissed what he called a conspiracy about taking away people's guns.

At one point, he said he was willing to speak with the NRA as long as they don't keep repeating what he called "misinformation."

"I respect the Second Amendment, right to bear arms, hunting," the president said. "But all agree we need to do everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them."

The president wants to crackdown on internet sales and gun shows where background checks are not always done. The plan would also require collectors who sell guns for a profit to do them as well.

Things became heated outside of the meeting.

"I am very much blaming a group of people for the actions of an individual," said Alex Shotwell, a college student.

The majority of people at the meeting said they were there to support the president and even took the time to hang t-shirts with the names of all those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Obama's plan has drawn strong criticism from gun groups, but it has also gained support.

"The majority of people in our country are for background checks and I don't see why Congress won't take the action they should," said Mary Kringer, a supporter.

Several families who have been affected by gun violence were invited to the event. That included some of the Sandy Hook parents, who spoke exclusively with Eyewitness News.

Some of the Sandy Hook families have met the president several times and have been working with his staff to try and come up with ways to reduce gun violence.

They said Thursday night's meeting is just part of that effort, which they hope will lead to change.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 33,000 people die every year from guns. It said that's roughly the same number who die in car accidents. Experts predict, however, that gun deaths will rise.

“They told us this was going to be one of the most difficult issues in America and that we were going to be facing monumental opposition,” Nicole Hockley with Sandy Hook Promise said.

But that wasn't enough to stop Hockley.  After her son Dylan was killed, Hockley said she was determined to do whatever she could to prevent gun violence.

Dylan was one of 20 first graders gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. She started a nonprofit along with Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was also killed. They work with many schools.

"It’s our life long mission to share education, make a change and protect children everywhere,” Hockley said.

"You are talking about a cultural shift,” Barden said. “A social movement where you have to influence attitudes and behaviors of the American public.”

Right after the shooting, Obama called for tougher guns laws including universal background checks. But, three years later, the United States Congress has failed to even debate the issue.  The president said he decided to use his executive power to crack down on those who sell weapons at gun shows and the internet to make sure they do backgrounds checks.

Some of the Sandy Hook families were at the White House for the announcement this week. Barden spoke just before the president’s announcement.

“It was incredibly disappointing not to have background checks pass,” Hockley said. “But, at the same time, it helped galvanizes the movement even more.”

The president’s plan also includes more money for mental health services, which is something Hockley said she feels is desperately needed.  Both parents believe the momentum for change is there, but it will take time.

“I don’t care what it takes. I’ll keep on this fight and we will make a difference,” Hockley said. “It’s inevitable and we will be part of this change.”  

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said he is frustrated with the lack of action in congress and feels it’s the extreme minority that's stopping what most people want.

“Ninety percent of Americans agree we should have more background checks,” Hockley said. “And in some polls, 80 to 90 percent of gun owners support it was well."

“We know that preventing people who should not have a firearm because they are a clear and present danger,” Barden said. “We can save other families from living through this.”

The town hall meeting was held in Fairfax, which is also where the National Rifle Association has its headquarters. Authorities said they expected some to show up with guns. In Virginia, a person can carry a gun openly in public.

"Everyone here wants to go after criminals," Obama said. "But we shouldn't make it so easy for them to have access to them."

Some will challenge the president's plan and it could end up in long court battles.

In the meantime, Obama has already set up a task force to look at internet gun sales.

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