WASHINGTON - The head of the powerful National Rifle Association on Thursday defended his group's mention of President Barack Obama's daughters in a web ad criticizing the administration's recent moves on gun control.
"Our point is not about the president's kids. It's about everybody else's kids," said NRA President David Keene, speaking to CBS television.
"We think that one of the most important things we can do is provide security to the children of America and we don't think that's an inappropriate message.
The ad, released by the NRA on Tuesday, has been roundly criticized for breaking a cardinal rule in Washington -- that the children of a sitting US president are off-limits for criticism or as a political talking point.
The NRA released the ad one day before Obama signed 23 executive actions, in a bid to check a rash of gun violence including the killings of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month and other recent mass shootings.
The NRA spot asked why Obama is "skeptical about putting armed security in schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school?"
Like the children of earlier presidents, the Obama girls -- Malia, 14 and Sasha, 11 -- receive the protection of armed Secret Service officers wherever they go, including their private Washington, DC school.
The NRA ad slammed the duplicity of "protection for their kids, and gun-free zones for ours," amid a heated nationwide gun control debate in the wake of a deadly school shooting and as Obama unveils new gun control measures.
"Are the president's kids more important than yours?" the NRA's narrator asked in a deep voice.
In a December interview, Obama said he was "skeptical" that an NRA proposal of placing armed security guards at schools around the country was the sole answer to curbing mass shootings.
White House spokesman Jay Carney released a statement Wednesday responding to the ad shortly before Obama outlined his new gun proposals.
"Most Americans agree that a president's children should not be used as pawns in a political fight," Carney said in a statement emailed to reporters.
"But to go so far as to make the safety of the president's children the subject of an attack ad is repugnant and cowardly."