01:33 - Source: CNN
Obama: I'm happy to talk to the NRA about guns

Story highlights

Although invited to take part in town hall, the NRA instead weighed in via social media and during Fox News interview

Exec. Director Chris Cox: "The president doesn't have a monopoly on compassion"

CNN  — 

The National Rifle Association turned down CNN’s invitation to Thursday night’s town hall “Guns in America,” but its social media arm and executive director responded to President Obama from the sideline.

On Twitter, the NRA issued a running series of rebuttals and accusations, countering Obama’s points, while asserting that “none of the president’s [recent executive actions] would have stopped any of the recent mass shootings.”

As the conversation with the president was still ongoing in Fairfax, Virginia, not far from NRA headquarters, NRA chief Chris Cox popped up on Fox News.

Cox immediately defended his decision to sit out the town hall.

“What are we going to talk about, basketball?” he said. “I am not interested in going over and talking to the president who doesn’t have a basic level of respect or understanding of the Second Amendment and law abiding gun owners in this country.”

Related: Obama blasts ‘imaginary fiction’ of taking away guns

Asked about Obama’s recent emotional discussion of the children – mostly first-graders – killed in the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., Cox bristled.

“The president doesn’t have a monopoly on compassion,” he told anchor Megyn Kelly. “The president doesn’t get to lecture us on loving our kids.”

Despite applause across social media for opening up the president to tough, fair questions from vocal anti-control voices like an Arizona sheriff, a gun industry executive and Taya Kyle, the widow of war veteran and “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, the NRA twitter account continued its criticism well into the night.

“@POTUS doesn’t want an intellectually honest policy discussion,” the group tweeted more than an hour after the forum ended. “He wanted #NRA to be an audience member at his PR stunt. No thanks.”