The implication that Obama and other gun-control advocates want to curtail Second Amendment rights — or even take guns away from law-abiding citizens — is at the heart of conservative arguments against the president. Donald Trump has repeatedly accused Obama of “trying” to take citizens’ guns away, while a Ted Cruz campaign website featured a headline reading “Obama wants your guns” just this week.
So when Cooper asked Obama, "Is it fair to call it a conspiracy?" it got personal.
"What are you saying?" Obama asked, visibly taken aback. "Are you suggesting the notion that we are creating a plot to take everybody's guns away so that we can impose martial law is a conspiracy? Yes, that is a conspiracy."
Obama, of course, has never actually proposed confiscating guns. He has proposed an assault weapons ban and favors outlawing high-capacity magazines. But the fear that the president wants to (eventually) take away Americans' already-owned guns persists.
To gun rights advocates, it persists in part because of Obama's repeated mentions of Australia, a country that banned semiautomatic rifles and shotguns and bought back nearly 1 million firearms from citizens in the wake of the Port Arthur shootings in 1996. While Obama seeks to use Australia as an example of a country that took what he calls "common sense" steps on gun control, his opponents see it as a subtle move toward enacting the same laws in the United States and taking back guns.
Obama countered that the "conspiracy" is really perpetuated by conservatives for political reasons — or by the gun lobby for "commercial reasons." (Gun sales typically spike after mass shootings. Obama even said Thursday that his presidency has been a boon to gun manufacturers. And it has.)
While Obama touts "common-sense reform," gun rights activists remain passionate about their firearm ownership. And ultimately, that passion makes the Second Amendment a powerful political motivator. Don't expect the "Obama wants your guns" theory — and the motivation it entails — to go away anytime soon. No matter how much Obama thinks it's a conspiracy.