Washington (CNN)The nation’s largest gun rights organization declined Wednesday to send official representatives to a nationally televised town hall with President Barack Obama on gun violence — just days after the president reignited a discussion over this controversial topic.
“The National Rifle Association sees no reason to participate in a public relations spectacle orchestrated by the White House,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told CNN, which is moderating the live town hall Thursday evening in Virginia. The NRA strengthened its comment after initially saying the White House had “organized” the event.
The NRA, the most influential gun rights group in terms of political persuasion and financial contributions, boasts a membership of about five million people.
A CNN spokesperson said that it was the network, not the White House, that proposed the idea of a town hall on guns, and noted the audience would be evenly divided between organizations that support the Second Amendment including NRA members as well as groups that back gun regulation.
Obama on Tuesday presented a renewed push for further gun regulations, including background checks for firearms purchases through the use of executive action. While pro-gun regulation activists heralded Obama’s renewed interest in the issue, his actions have been called into question about whether they would truly help stem gun violence.
On the overall issue of gun control, 48% of Americans support stricter laws, while 51% were opposed, according a CNN/ORC poll released last month.
The NRA and Obama have been bitter enemies on the issue of new gun regulations — each accusing the other of engaging in politics instead of working to find solutions to end gun violence.
Some of the groups invited to attend the town hall, which will feature direct audience questioning of the president, include Gun Owners of America, American Firearms Retailers Association, Everytown for Gun Safety and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, among others.