After skipping his chance to go face-to-face with President Obama during CNN's January 7 “Guns in America” town hall, National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre has released a video challenging Obama to a nationally televised one hour debate.
While it might make an interesting spectacle to watch LaPierre confront Obama with his signature paranoid gun confiscation fantasies, what would be truly remarkable is a debate between 2016 Wayne LaPierre and adamant background check supporter 1999 Wayne LaPierre.
The NRA has gone apoplectic since Obama's January 5 announcement of executive actions on gun violence, a key component of which expands background checks on gun sales.
Having already positioned itself as a virulent opponent of expanding background checks following legislative battles in the wake of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, the NRA turned its rhetoric up even higher leading up to Obama's announcement, labeling the president “our biggest threat to national security” in a January 4 video posted to its NRA News website.
In a follow-up released on January 6, LaPierre strongly attacked the notion of expanded background checks, claiming in a video called “The Truth About Background Checks” that “the only thing the average American has heard about background checks is the absolute fallacy that what we need is more.”
Now LaPierre has issued a challenge to Obama, stating in a January 13 video, “I'll tell you what. I'll meet you for a one-on-one, one-hour debate -- with a mutually agreed-upon moderator -- on any network that will take it. No pre-screened questions and no gas-bag answers.”
Before LaPierre debates Obama, he may want to reconcile his organization's January 2016 position with what the NRA advocated for in 1999. During a May 28, 1999, appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, LaPierre represented the NRA and said, “Let's talk about what's reasonable and what's not. We think it's reasonable to provide mandatory, instant criminal background checks for every sale, at every gun show no loopholes anywhere for anyone.”
So are more background checks “reasonable” or are calls for more checks an “absolute fallacy”?
Also significant to LaPierre's debate challenge is that he already had the opportunity last week to confront Obama live, before millions of viewers. In trying to create cover for this telling fact, LaPierre and the NRA have repeatedly lied about the nature of CNN's town hall event on gun violence.
First, in declining to participate in the event, the NRA claimed the town hall was “orchestrated by the White House.” That wasn't true; the event was conceived by CNN, which invited both Obama and the NRA. Only Obama accepted.
Then the NRA repeatedly advanced the notion that questions during the town hall were screened by the White House.
During a Fox News appearance that immediately preceded the end of the town hall, top NRA lobbyist Chris Cox attempted to explain the NRA's refusal to participate by telling Fox News host Megyn Kelly, “I know that you don't send your questions over to the White House so I would rather have a conversation with you that's intellectually honest than sit through a lecture and get one opportunity to ask a pre-screened question.” At the time, Cox scoffed at the notion of the NRA meeting with the president to have a serious conversation about gun violence, saying, “So what are we going to talk about, basketball?”
The notion that the CNN event was stacked against the NRA also surfaced in LaPierre's January 13 video, where he claimed the NRA “won't get suckered into any of Obama's fixed fights” where “pre-screened questions that lead to [Obama's] long-winded answers are anything but an honest dialogue.”
But for the NRA, the notion that CNN's event was “fixed” was debunked by a guest on their own NRA News program Cam & Company. The day after the event, NRA News hosted Kimberly Corban, a pro-gun sexual assault survivor, who unlike the NRA, did have the courage to challenge Obama with a question during CNN's town hall.
As Corban explained, the questions were screened by CNN (not the White House) and because the event was live she could have said whatever she wanted to the president. Host Cam Edwards asked Corban, "[CNN] said, 'Come up with a couple questions and we'll tell you which one we want you to use?" She replied: “Yup. Which isn't - to a point I was able to at least craft those questions on my own, those are my own words, and I could have gone as much off script as I wanted to as the event was live, but they knew basically what I was going to ask.”