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 274.

    In the US the freedom to own firearms is accompanied by the obligation to use them responsibly; which includes being proficient in their use and familiar with all applicable laws. That is what responsible gun ownership means. Unfortunately too may gun owners in the US don't appear to understand that trade-off. Still, you can't legislate morality, common sense or responsibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    71.Yank Scientist
    If you think Barack Obama is a Socialist then sadly, like a great many Americans you apparently have no idea what 'Socialism' really means. Go out and buy yourself a history book, or better still visit a country where Socialism once existed and you might learn something that will help you to come across as being a lot less ignorant in the future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    262 Golgotha cont.
    So anything that aids a tyrant is rejected. Knowing who has what, limiting equivalency with a infantryman's weapons, etc. A non-NRA group tried at compromise asking for national reciprocity for concealed carry, guaranteed maximum 30 minute FBI checks (a current problem, but a nightmare for gun shows), guaranteed return of weapons if proven that they were wrongly confiscated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.


    You seem quite astute, perhaps you can help me with this conundrum? All male Swiss citizens are obliged to keep a working firearm, it's their law (they don't have a standing army and every citizen is expected to join the militia if needed), yet there isn't as much a problem with guns as there is in the US. Any thoughts on why this is? I'm intrested if you've an opinion on this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    The gun laws put in place by Clinton worked well & saved lives Why did those gun laws expire ? Why do laws expire in the U.S. ? What a stupid system !

    When we create sex abuse laws we don't let sex abusers have input so why are we letting gun-making companies create our gun laws ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    What's "UNHINGED" is a President selling full-auto guns to Mexican Drug Cartels, who then murder US citizens with those guns!
    Business as usual.Been the same for decades.
    Saudi is a massive importer of US arms and a big exporter of Jihad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.


    "how does a law abiding citizen in Britain prove they are responsible enough to own one?"

    They have to meet extensive criteria http://www.met.police.uk/firearms_licensing/faqs.html

    "And is it legal for a responsible owner to use it to defend against an intruder in their home?"

    Same laws of self defence apply, as long as it's considered reasonable force etc then yes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    218.Dexter Wansel
    Cowardly... a sick obsession with firearms by the gun-nuts, NRA... totally UNHINGED
    99% of law abiding gun owners, whose guns are never involved in a crime, are not "unhinged".

    What's "UNHINGED" is a President selling full-auto guns to Mexican Drug Cartels, who then murder US citizens, Brian Terry, with those guns!

    If you don't like the Constitution, amend it legally :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    262. Golgotha
    Exactly, the 2nd isn't about hunting, it was all about being able to group together and throw off government if it became tyrannical. This was meant to be hard, a rebellion is treason unless enough of you agree so that you win. There was much discussion of the time about individuals not having artillery, but this coming from disaffected federal units etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    re. 255.Golgotha:
    " two options, the American way, everyone is entitled to a gun or the British way, no one is saying you can't own a gun, you just have to prove you are responsible before you can."

    I'm curious: how does a law abiding citizen in Britain prove they are responsible enough to own one? And is it legal for a responsible owner to use it to defend against an intruder in their home?

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    Rob - humans are not infallible - even trained ones. Some have suggested that the seemingly gung ho attitude of US forces reflects a trigger happy gun culture but let's not digress even further

    The original point, proffered by the gun lobby, is about SELF defence - not 3rd party intervention (trained or otherwise).

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    Democracy is the culprit. If you want it, you have to take the good with the bad. When it goes awry, the first thing that is done...legislate the law abiding person....totally stupid imo. Keep the criminals off the street...one strike you are out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.


    That's a good answer, unexpected. So the reason Americans like their guns is due to a mistrust of government? As for the other half, a compromise means both sides making concessions, there was never going to be a consensus becuase both sides were not willing to compromise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    218.Dexter Wansel
    Cowardly... a sick obsession with firearms by the gun-nuts, NRA, firearms makers and amunition manufacturers shows them to be, like totally UNHINGED
    It's a bit unfair to 99% of law abiding gun owners, whose are never involved in a crime, as "unhinged".

    What's "UNHINGED" is a President selling full-auto guns to Mexican Drug Cartels, who then murder US citizens with those guns!

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    255. Golgotha
    Very possibly, however we are not British and fundamentally do not trust government, as our constitution provided for with the 2nd Amt. Unfortunately for compromise the gun control folks have earned our mistrust, to them compromise means asking for less rather than trading needs/wants. They also mislead, tell us we don't want your guns, but put on their websites this is just a step

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    To those who believe it is your "right" to be armed, please do not be surprised the next time a lunatic goes on a killing spree. Do not feel any sympathy or sadness for it is attitudes like yours that have allowed that event to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    Come on guys, criminals have guns already.

    It's us law abiding citizens who don't.

    And the criminals know it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    re. 215.Golgotha:
    "May I ask, of all those here who are American and own a gun, have you ever 1) Used it for more than just target practice and 2) Have you yourself ever been shot or shot at"

    1) Yes, to stop and detain an armed intruder until police arrived. 2) Does military service count?

    I don't go looking for trouble but I choose to have the means the defend myself if trouble finds me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    250David Windsor
    I'm no Obama fan. But anyone who doesn't agree that a prohibition on guns wouldn't make the USA a better place has his head up in a very dark place
    Get real
    Theres supposed to be over 50 million guns in Texas alone
    Prohibition... now that would be an interesting law to see enforced.
    Ha... all these opinions (as Dirty Harry said) ... are like ass O's everybodys got one

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.


    Lets get back on topic.

    A gun is only as dangerous as the wielder. In an ideal world you can trust everyone to be responsible with firearms, You however have two options, the American way, everyone is entitled to a gun or the British way, no one is saying you can't own a gun, you just have to prove you are responsible before you can. Is the latter not what Obama was trying for?


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