RENO, Nev. - A top National Rifle Association official on Tuesday accused President Barack Obama of seeking to redefine the rights of gun owners, telling a hunting and wildlife conservation group that the president's use of the word "absolutism" in his inauguration speech was an attack on law-abiding citizens who own firearms.
Obama said in his speech Monday that Americans shouldn't "mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate."
The remark was interpreted by the NRA as a reference to the organization's steadfast opposition to any new gun regulations.
NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre told a Weatherby Foundation awards ceremony that the Second Amendment gives Americans the unfettered right to own a firearm, but the president wants to redefine that freedom.
"Absolutes do exist, words do have specific meaning in language and in law," he said.
The president wants Americans to believe that "putting the federal government in the middle of every gun transaction" will make them safer, LaPierre said. But the NRA believes people have the right to defend themselves and their families with semi-automatic firearms technology, he said.
"No government gave them to us and no government can take them away."
Obama last week unveiled a set of legislative proposals and executive actions on firearms that were formulated in the wake of last month's Connecticut school shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead.
The NRA responded to the proposals by posting a Web video that labeled Obama an "elitist hypocrite" for allowing his daughters to be protected by armed guards while not embracing a proposal - supported by the NRA - that would place armed guards at all schools. The organization has also planned an aggressive lobbying push to thwart new gun regulations and has been raising money in response to the outcry for new gun laws.
LaPierre's speech on Tuesday was billed as a response to Obama's inaugural address.