Obama: Gun control defeat 'shameful day for Washington'
Published Wednesday, April 17, 2013 6:32AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 17, 2013 7:13PM EDT
A visibly frustrated President Barack Obama slammed the U.S. Senate’s rejection of bipartisan legislation that would have expanded background checks for firearms buyers, saying it was a “shameful day for Washington.”
Joined by the father of a Newtown, Conn., school shooting victim and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived being shot in the head in 2011, Obama delivered a fiery speech after the Senate vote Wednesday.
He accused senators who voted against the bill of “caving” to political pressure from the gun lobby and special interest groups.
Although the background check bill was supported by a majority of senators – 54 to 46 who opposed it – it still fell short of the 60 votes needed to move it forward.
Of the 46 senators who scuttled the bill, 41 were Republicans and five were Democrats.
Obama said he couldn’t understand how a “common sense” proposal that would tighten gun control measures without infringing Americans’ Second Amendment right to bear arms would be rejected.
“Ninety per cent of the American people support universal background checks that make it harder for a dangerous person to buy a gun,” he said.
“Instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill.”
Before the vote, Sen. Joe Manchin, one of the bill's sponsors, accused the National Rifle Association of making false claims about the expansion of background checks and telling people that they would need federal permission to transfer gun ownership to their family members and friends.
"I don't know how to put the words any plainer than this: That is a lie. That is simply a lie," Manchin said.
After the vote, the NRA issued a statement saying the background check expansion bill would have “criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbours and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution.”
Wednesday’s vote was a major setback for efforts to increase gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown that left 20 children dead in December.
Some of those students’ parents were in the Senate’s spectator gallery as the vote took place. They were joined by relatives of victims in other mass U.S. shooting.
Although Giffords did not speak as she joined Obama for his statement in the Rose Garden late Wednesday afternoon, she later tweeted: “Senate ignored will of the people & rejected background checks. I’m not giving up. Constituents will know they obeyed gun lobby and not them.”
The proposed expanded background checks aimed to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from purchasing firearms. Currently, background checks are only required in gun purchases from federally licensed firearms dealers. The defeated bill would have ensured that the same checks are made at gun shows and before online sales are made.
With files from The Associated Press