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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US gun debate


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  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    Most people outside of the US understand the 2nd amendment - what they dont understand is why anyone thinks background checks threaten it. After all when the 2nd A was written the 'arms' were flintlocks and universal sufferage was a dream. Given how uncritical US citizens are of their government any militia today would be 'terrorists' so what exactly is being protected at such a cost?

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    There are two types of gun owner: those who leave multiple loaded guns around the house where their children can pick them up and kill themselves... and those who get shot in the back while trying to open their safe.

    You can't be both and you can't be neither. There's no such thing as a safe and useful gun.

  • Comment number 192.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    The thing is, I think the gun holds such significance in the collective conciousness of the Americans, it is so entwined with their being that to take their guns from them or regulate its trade would mean they would no longer consider themselves American. It would be like asking a man of that time in the Old World to do away with his sword. It's easier for us, our weapon of choice became obsolete.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    People fail to understand because they live in their own little bubble that there is a genuine enthusiasm for firearms. It might be for sport, hunting or just general defence. Punishing law abiding gun owners will not reduce crime rates and that's why this feel good legislation has to stop. How about you actually punish criminals who use illegally obtained firearms for a change?

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    The poor guy didn't have a snowballs chance in hell of getting people to see common sense, guns give a totally false sense of security and cause more misery and loss than they ever cure, I watched a BBC news report on gun ownership in the US & there was a girl of 10 who had her own handguns being taught by mum how to shot, they were also in matching pink, what a sad and bizarre state of affairs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    Sure, the UK has had it's fair share of gun violence and some as bad as recent US school shootings. Since moving to LA gun crime is headline news almost every other day. I've seen more mass shootings in the space of 2 years here in the US than I've seen in the 33 years I've lived in the UK.

  • Comment number 187.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    Americans quoting the 2nd Amendment to argue against rational gun control measures is like someone quoting the scriptures to justify their irrational acts. It's astonishing that the citizens of a developed society are so irrational in their thinking. And, they do not seem to learn even after scores of tragedies! Or, is it that the gun lobby has such control over this "free society"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    The poll saying 86% of Americans want "universal background checks" is hardly representative of the 300+ million Americans as the poll was only conducted with 1800 individuals.Stronger background checks would not of prevented sandy hook, considering the killer stole the firearms. Criminals use illegally obtained firearms, background checks would be completely useless in preventing crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Sad that in some parts of our beloved country it is easier to get a gun than to cast your vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    The system by which The United States Of Avarice governs itself is one of the wonders of the world. What a dreadful set of people the right wing republicans are in that god forsaken,greed driven, profit obsessed, selfish country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    the 2nd ammendment has EVERYTHING to do with the ability of the people to be able to form a militia in the event the goverment gets too oppressive, kinda like great britian when we originally broke away
    That was over 200 years ago. Anyway, what about Germany and Hitler? Couldn't get more oppressive than that but all we Brits still have to this day is warm beer :o)

  • Comment number 181.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    I feel so blessed to live in England. We have very low gun crime because guns are not freely available and we have free health care for everyone too. This leads us Brits to wonder why those of you living in the USA just don't get it. You too could have a society as wonderful as ours if you would just bring your laws into the 21st century.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    If you wait until I've drawn a gun and threatened you with it then, frankly, your gun isn't going to do you any good.

    You're one chance when you think I have a gun in my pocket is to anticipate my next move BEFORE it happens and shoot me first. And there's always the danger that I really might just have been pleased to see you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    Could we please have some statistics?
    Aka...How many gun owners in the USA have
    saved any lives?
    Some? A few? If the answer is not too many.....
    Does that mean the people selling the product are the winners or the buyers of the product the losers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    You know what they should do? They should require that every gun owner must serve for at least 1 year in a newly formed Militia which they should send out to active combat zones to help support the regular Army. The idea being, you want to be a big boy and play with guns? Well, you can play with the Taliban then. Bet you any money gun ownership numbers would plummet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    let me explain something to those of you not familiar with the 2nd ammendment of the us constitution, the right to bear arms has nothing to do with hunting or shooting for sport, it has EVERYTHING to do with the ability of the people to be able to form a militia in the event the goverment gets too oppressive, kinda like great britian when we originally broke away and formed our own country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    The proposed amendment was a nominal watered down practicality provision applying to internet and gun show sales paperwork, supported consistently by 80-90% of citizens per polls - not a "gun ban". I think the shocking point is that the proposal was bi-partisan, polled at 80-90%, and yet the red senators still voted blatantly for the powerful wealthy NRA lobby campaign money. So crass


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