US President Barack Obama speaks on gun control on April 17, 2013 in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC. Obama on Wednesday slammed what he called a 'minority' in the US Senate for blocking legislation that would have expanded background checks on those seeking to buy guns.(Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
By Gregory Korte and Catalina Camia, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - An angry President Obama criticized a minority of the
Senate on Wednesday for helping defeat a proposal to expand background
checks on gun purchases.
"It all came down to politics," Obama said in the Rose Garden. "All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington."
was introduced by Mark Barden, whose son, Daniel, was among the 20
children and six adults killed Dec. 14 in a gun massacre at Sandy Hook
Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Besides other Newtown families,
Obama was flanked by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was
shot in the head during a 2011 assassination attempt.
hours before, the Senate voted 54-46 to defeat an amendment by Sens.
Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to expand background checks
to include purchases made at gun shows and on the Internet. Forty-one
Republicans were joined by five Democrats - primarily from red states
where gun ownership is high - to reject the proposal.
background-checks measure was seen as the core of legislative efforts to
reduce gun massacres, such as the one in Newtown and the 2011 rampage
near Tucson that killed six people and severely wounded Giffords, a
moderate Democrat and gun owner who now champions gun-control efforts.
votes were necessary to get around a filibuster - a tall order because
it meant drawing on Republican support to make up for losing
majority-party Democrats. Obama slammed the Senate filibuster rules, and
said the concern that gun owners would vote against senators in the
next election caused the outcome.
Obama said the
background-checks proposal did not include everything he wanted, but it
represented "progress," "moderation" and "common sense." He chided the
National Rifle Association (NRA) and its allies for falsely claiming it
would create a "Big Brother"-type gun registry, even though the
legislation would specifically outlaw such a thing.
supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied
about the bill," Obama said. "This pattern of spreading untruths about
this legislation served a purpose, because those lies upset an intense
minority of gun owners, and that in turn intimidated a lot of senators."
After the Senate vote, the NRA called the background-checks proposal "misguided."
amendment would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms
between honest citizens, requiring life-long friends, neighbors and
some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a
fundamental right or face prosecution," said Chris Cox, the NRA's chief
lobbyist. "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."
In an example of the political risk of gun
votes, the liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee launched an ad
campaign targeting Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Max Baucus
of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota for
their "no" votes.
Pryor, Baucus and Begich face competitive fights for re-election in 2014.
GOP senators - Toomey, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Susan Collins of Maine
and John McCain of Arizona - crossed party lines to support the measure.
a surprise, ailing Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., appeared in the
chamber for the first time in weeks to cast an "aye" vote. He has been
battling muscle weakness and fatigue, and came to the Senate floor in a
Earlier in the day, Vice President Biden acknowledged to mayors in an
online chat that the Senate vote would be a long shot. But he vowed to
keep pressing for gun-control measures, and was echoed by Obama during
the Rose Garden event.
"I can assure you one thing: We're going
to get this eventually," Biden said. "If we don't get it today, we'll
get it eventually. I think the American people are way ahead of their
The Senate rejected several other amendments
to the underlying gun bill, including one to ban assault weapons and
limit the size of magazine clips. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the
sponsor of the assault weapons ban, implored her colleagues to "show
some guts" but the measure was defeated on a 40-60 vote.
substitute plan by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ted Cruz,
R-Texas, that would tighten the background-check database but not expand
the types of sales subject to it was defeated. A measure by Sen.
Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, to toughen rules on
gun trafficking was also rejected.
Contributing: Aamer Madhani