Obama attacks senators who rejected gun sale checks


President Obama: "All in all this was a pretty shameful day for Washington"

President Barack Obama has lashed out at senators who blocked a bipartisan plan to support expanded background checks on firearms.

"This was a pretty shameful day for Washington," Mr Obama said at the White House. "But this effort is not over."

Fifty-four senators backed the plan, but that was six short of the 60-vote hurdle needed to clear the chamber.

Gun rights groups hailed the defeat of the measure, arguing it would violate the right to bear arms.

The proposal, put forward as an amendment to a broader gun bill, sought to widen the current checks to include online and unlicensed gun show dealers.

President Barack Obama is campaigning for tighter gun laws after 26 people died in a school shooting in Connecticut in December.


In remarks at the White House with a family that lost a son in the Newtown massacre by his side, Mr Obama vowed to continue efforts on tighter gun restrictions.

"If this Congress refuses to listen to the American people... then the real impact is going to have to come from the voters," Mr Obama said, calling on those who supported the plan to let their senators know how disappointed they were.

Mr Obama argued those who voted against the Manchin-Toomey plan had been led only by politics.

file photo of handguns on display at the table of David Petronis of Mechanicville, New York 26 January 2013 The plan sought to expand checks at private and online sales

"Most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn't want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun."

Meanwhile, former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a vocal supporter of gun control after she was shot in the head in 2011 while meeting constituents in Tucson, in an attack that killed six people, accused lawmakers of "cowardice".

"These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association, which in the last election cycle spent around $25 million on contributions, lobbying and outside spending," Ms Giffords wrote in the New York Times.

The expanded system of background checks, which had been the centrepiece of the president's agenda, was blocked by most Senate Republicans and some Democrats.

US media reaction

The New York Times accuses the Senate of failing Americans, saying for 45 of them the carnage of Sandy Hook Elementary School is a forgotten tragedy.

Commentator Charles Krauthammer tells Fox News in video carried by National Review Online that the amendment would not have stopped Sandy Hook happening.

The Washington Post says the Senate has "misfired badly".

"An inglorious conclusion," is the view of the Huffington Post.

Plans for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines have already been removed from the gun-control bill, amid lack of political support. Similar measures failed as amendments on Wednesday.

A recent poll by CNN/ORC suggests that 86% of Americans support expanded background checks, but recent AP opinion surveys show support for generally stricter gun laws has dipped from a high of 58% in January to 48%.

Patricia Maisch, a survivor of the 2011 Arizona shooting that killed six people and severely injured former Representative Gabby Giffords, shouted "Shame on you!" from the Senate gallery as the bill was blocked.

The plan was considered as an amendment to a larger gun-violence bill in the Senate. The bipartisan deal was first brokered by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Senator Pat Toomey.

'A lie'

On Wednesday, Sen Manchin said allegations by America's top gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association, that the proposal would require checks for sales and gifts between family and friends and lead to a national registry as "a lie".

He said: "Where I come from in West Virginia, I don't know how to put the words any plainer than this: That is a lie. That is simply a lie and anybody who can read knows that is not factual."

Mr Obama also said the gun lobby had "wilfully lied about the bill" and that a vocal minority of gun owners had "intimidated" senators into voting against the plan.

The proposal had exempted transfers between family and friends, and had explicitly banned the justice department from setting up a national gun registry.

Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah told USA Today he voted against the amendment because it was too vague for law-abiding citizens to understand and too easy for criminals to avoid.

"The plan created more questions than it answered about which types of transfers are lawful without a background check and might ensnare law-abiding gun owners simply exercising their constitutional rights. It also left in place a number of gaps that could easily be exploited by criminals intent on obtaining guns."

In a statement, the NRA hailed the defeat of the amendment.

"As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools," said the statement.

Three other Republicans joined Sen Toomey in backing the plan - Arizona's John McCain, Maine's Susan Collins and Mark Kirk of Illinois.

Democratic Senators Mark Begich of Alaska, Max Baucus of Montana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Mark Pryor of Arkansas voted against the measure. Senators Begich, Baucus and Pryor are all seeking re-election next year.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    The most shameful aspect is that there are Senators whose fear of losing their seats in the mid-term elections, in the face of well-funded opposition coordinated by the NRA, exceeds their responsibility to their constituents.

    #51: The 2nd amendment has nothing to do with "an armed militia to overthrow a tyrannical government": that's a modern interpretation/falsehood perpetrated by the gun lobby.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Let's keep things in a Human, and not ideological, perspective...3 dead and Scrores injured in Boston, and a shocking explosion in Texas, and yet Gun Crime in the US killes over 12,000/ YEAR. That's 30/Day. And they still cannot get a FAIR vote on gun regulation...Land of the Free, Yes, but unfortunately it seems to be free of any rational debate about the issue...40% US - Could do better...

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    To make his point more forcefully, he should've attacked them with a gun.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    The right to bear arms, as it is in the constitution is outdated. It's supposedly there to be able to form an armed militia to overthrow a tyrannical government. I don't see how a few citizens or even the entire population with rifles could overthrow a government with M1 Abrams tanks, F-35's and Apache gunships at their disposal. Can anyone enlighten me?

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    "Why are people afraid of a background check?"

    Governments tend to be full of people who like to make rules, increase restrictions and get a perverse thrill out of frustrating the legitimate intentions of others (control).

    it's sad, but it's the reality

  • Comment number 49.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Given that the slaughter of some twenty children and adults in a primary school is not deemed sufficient to warrant the introduction of some/better gun control,one has to ask precisely what will it take to bring about change?

  • Comment number 47.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    @Tim. Here is some logic for you. You can change and amend a constitution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Where is the sanity in allowing unstable dangerous people another way to bring disater to peoples lives? If you a balanced sensible person with a vaid reason to want pocess a firearm what have you to fear? Though I can thnk of none. Where do these senetor want to everyone armed with home defence nukes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    @Natnasci - Here's some American history for you. The states required the new Federal government to add the Bill of Rights, or the first ten amendments, because they wanted specific rights recognized and ratified and though the US Constitution didn't go far enough to protect them. So, yes, they are Amendments that were specifically picked out by the states ratifying the US Constitution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Stupidity comes as standard.
    Well that's the USA sorted then.
    For the so called "best nation on earth" they don't have show them selves up as a backward ignorant peoples. Thankfully there are one or two intelligent people about

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    @27.Gabriel Oaks

    "Automatic weapons", as you stated, are currently very heavily regulated. Not a single child at Newtown was killed with an "Automatic Weapon". Way to make an arguement without even knowing what you are talking about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    @25. hms1331
    Death toll at that mass stabbing in Texas at you are referring to 0 (last I heard)
    Death toll at the mass shooting in Newtown 27 (28 if you count Lanza)
    Notice the difference?
    People kill people, but guns makes it so any idiot can do so

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Once again Americans are pitted against each other over pride and fear.
    Why are people afraid of a background check? Wouldn't a reasonable person want a violent offender to be stopped from buying a weapon of violence? The right to bear arms was created for a young fledgling country in order to rally a militia at a moments notice. Good guy guns are not stopping violence as is. So why not a check?

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Obama is a liar. There's ample evidence to demonstrate this, he is of course a politician and lying is part of his game.

    I bet nearly 100% of the commenters on this story have never read the legislation as it was proposed. The way it was worded made it impractical as a law. This is good politics at work. Why put poorly designed laws into place when you can do a better job?

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn't want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun?
    I'm with Gabrielle Giffords, cowardice!
    As for it leaving a number of gaps easily exploitable by criminals obtaining guns - wouldn't the inclusion of online and unlicensed gun show dealers, family and friends decrease the current gap?

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    There's more problems causing violence than guns. Need to attack root causes like drugs and gang activity. There is no amount of regulation that will prevent criminals from illegally obtaining weapons. Look at Chicago - a city with some of the toughest gun laws in the nation. Worked there, didn't it? Nope. All it does is hinder law abiding citizens from protecting themselves and their families.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    "I honestly don't understand how anyone could have blocked this"

    My reading: Some people feel that as soon as the government get its foot in the door with background checks, the requirements will suffer scope creep that can't be easily challenged. The government can't be remotely trusted to give two figs about your personal safety, so it's best to keep them out the issue

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    England went too far America has'nt gone far enough.


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