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 74.

    Even if there was an outright ban on firearms in the U.S., criminals will still easily get them. America is not an isolated little island that can be controlled by its government as in the U.K. Guns will still pour through the Mexican border via drug cartels, into the hands of criminals, who will take advantage of those who do not have the means to defend themselves. This is not an ideal world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    3 Minutes ago
    'Lets ban spoons because they make people fat'

    Someone with a spoon is unlikely to go down to a mall and cause carnage with it and kill innocent people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    What kills me is that most people don't even understand why this is happening. The difference between the two parties isn't should something be done. It's a question of contract law really. Do you honor the obligations you have agreed to or do you have sufficient need to break faith and renegotiate. In this circumstance the notion of two branches of government is a misrepresentation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Obama is a liberal buffoon.
    Some Americans love Obama's Socialist leanings, but many, many Americans despise Socialism because it zaps a nations incentive to excel. Obama embarrassed himself attempting to scold people for not supporting his foolish proposal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Obama doesn't know diddly about the will of the people. The majority of the people didn't want his Obamacare but his party pushed it down our throats anyway.
    The will of the people actually won this one and if those that lost want to call the people they WORK for cowards, so be it

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Lets ban spoons because they make people fat, leding to health complications, finally death.
    The proposed law did nothing that would have saved any of those innocent.
    What is really interesting is Chicago's ban on guns. Highest gun crime murder rate in US. Barry Obamas home town.
    And you cant buy a gun without a background check.
    The 2nd Amendment stands, God Bless America.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    You cant legislate criminals to stop bearing arms illegally. I just think its a good idea to allow the innocent to be able to protect themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Whoops ... sorry for #47.... I am having a difficult time trying to express myself and at the same time please BBC. Freedom of speech....for whom ....

    Anyway, America is a fabulous country with many well meaning educated people. I hope they are able to elevate their lives within the meaning of their constitution.

    Submission...hmmmm, yup ....its a good thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    We have the same problem here. Lobbyists control the party funding, and have influence on voters. To stand up to lobbyists takes more balls than most politicians have, US or UK. I am not surprised at this vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    "I don't see how a few citizens or even the entire population with rifles could overthrow a government with M1 Abrams tanks"

    The tanks have a large vulnerable supply chain requiring the co-operation of a large number of people. If these people are unarmed you can just force them at gunpoint to maintain that chain, if people are armed, it aint so easy.

  • Comment number 64.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Yep! To bad they are not responsible enough to lock the guns up properly.
    How many stories are there where children have access to loaded and unlocked weapons...a lot. I bet I could walk into every 5th house and easily pick up a gun that was left just lying around as a show piece.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    The senators who voted against, will no doubt give all concerned ,a coherent and sensible explanation as to why anyone in the USA needs to have access to an assault rifle.
    But,suspect they will stay silent on this subject.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Contrary to most of the MSM 'news' posts, most Americans were not in favor of this gun bill. The Senators voted correctly as to what their constituents want. There are already background checks. Less than 3% of violent crime is committed with 'assault'-style weapons or those that hold large magazines. These bills were just for show. They would have accomplished nothing, just like the '94 ban.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Time to boot the NRA and go after the manufacturers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    The American people have background checks. The background checks would not have stopped the Sandy Hook shooter. Criminals wanting guns will not purchase their arms legally.

    @shoXx: ask the Libyan or Egyptians how an armed people will overthrow a corrupt & tyrannical government. This isn't the 18th century where armed rebels stand in an open field to face onslaught. Guerrilla warfare.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Va. Tech, Cho. Gabby Giffords, Loughner, Colo. Theater, Holmes, Sandy Hook, Lanza. All were mentally ill and this proposed law did NOTHING to prevent the mentally ill from acquiring weapons. Bad law meant to emotionally appease the grieving and to deny rights to the rights wing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    US citizens still believe it is ultimately their own responsibility to protect themselves and their families - Especially since federal, state & local governments are cutting back on law enforcement due to smaller budgets. The US Constitution protects its citizens' right to own and use firearms. As long as there is a perceived need to own weapons and the right to do so nothing much will change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Gun laws desperately need updating. I am not for a blanket ban on all firearms but I do favour mandatory background checks and psyche evaluations for ALL gun sales to ensure that weapons are not given to people with violent tendencies. This plus greater investment in mental health provision is what is needed to cut gun crime in the US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Imagine being the store owner who had just sold a gun to a killer, moments before the killer, killed. Is this why Hans Blix committed suicide? His conscience was punishing knowing the criminals have access to weaponry? I wonder if good old George and Dick would pass a background check? Just asking!


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