The gun-control debate has become one of the most divisive and talked-about issues of the 2016 presidential campaign, in the wake of mass shootings in Oregon and California.
Taya Kyle, the widow of "American Sniper" Chris Kyle, who was shot and killed while helping fellow soldiers readjust to life back home, was the first audience member to be given the microphone, and her question really got to the heart of gun-rights advocates' objections to Obama's efforts.
“We’re at an all-time low for murder rate, but I think most of us in this country feel like it could happen at any moment,” she said. “It’s not necessarily that I think someone’s going to come take my gun from me, but I want the hope, the hope that I have the right to protect myself.”
Kyle cited declining national murder statistics and asked the president: “Why not celebrate where we are … celebrate that we’re good people, and 99.9 percent of us are never going to kill anyone?”
It wasn’t just the question – as composed and informed as it was – it was the person asking it. Kyle is the wife of a former U.S. Navy SEAL who is perhaps the most famous American military sharpshooter in history-- not to mention a victim of gun violence himself.
Obama’s answer shifted toward some of the talking points we’ve heard throughout this week, reiterating that law-abiding citizens will still be able to purchase guns, but also that it will be impossible to stop all illegal sales.
"Some criminals will get their hands on firearms even if there's a background check," he conceded. He went deeper into the crime statistics Kyle brought up – notably that violent crime has decreased during the course of his presidency.
"But, in the same way that we don't eliminate all traffic accidents, but, over the course of 20 years, traffic accidents get lower -- there's still tragedies," Obama said. "There's still drunk drivers. There's still people who don't wear their seat belts, but over time, that violence was reduced, and so families are spared."
But it's likely Taya Kyle, who also published a pro-gun rights op-ed on CNN.com before the town hall, will be celebrated in the hours and days ahead for articulating the case against Obama's gun measures.