Senate Rejects Expanded Gun Background Checks
The US Senate rejected a compromise deal that would have expanded background checks on firearms purchases after the measure’s sponsors failed to collect enough votes to avoid a Republican filibuster.
USA Today reports that President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats failed to muster the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster. The vote on the measure, which was designed to prevent criminals and the seriously mentally ill from being able to purchase firearms, was 54-46, with several red-state Democrats joining 41 Republicans in voting down the bill.
The Huffington Post reports that shouts of “shame on you” echoed through the Senate chamber following the vote on the bill, the components of which are supported by the vast majority of Americans, even most gun owners. In fact, in a recent Huffington Post/YouGov poll, background checks were more popular than apple pie, baseball and kittens.
The bill, which was the result of a bipartisan effort led by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), would have extended background checks on firearms purchases to close loopholes that currently exist. Background checks are currently only required when guns are purchased from firearms dealers licensed by the federal government. The failed bill would have required checks on weapons bought online and at gun shows.
Sen. Manchin, a pro-gun lawmaker with an ‘A’ rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA), accused the nation’s largest and most powerful gun lobby of lying about the bill. In a letter, the NRA falsely claimed that bill would “criminalize the private transfer of firearms by honest citizens.”
“I don’t know how to put the words any plainer than this: that is a lie. That is simply a lie,” Manchin fumed.
An angry-looking President Obama blasted the Senate vote from the White House on Wednesday.
“All in all, this is a pretty shameful day for Washington,” the president said. “The American people are trying to figure out– how can something that has 90 percent support not happen?”
“Instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill,” Obama charged. “They claimed that it would create some sort of ‘Big Brother’ gun registry, even though the bill did the opposite. The legislation, in fact, outlawed any registry. Plain and simple, right there in the text. But it didn’t matter.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (R-CT) called the day “probably the saddest day of my public life.”
Survivors of gun violence were also deeply disappointed, and promised to hold those who voted against the bill accountable at the ballot box.
“When 90 percent of the people want something, and the senator votes against them, the next election, we’re going to take care of those senators, because they’re not representing the people,” retired Col. Bill Badger, one of the people who tackled Tucson shooter Jared Loughner, who killed five people and seriously wounded former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (R-AZ) in 2011, told the Huffington Post.
“I think we’re going to continue to work for the right thing to be done,” Peter Read, who lost his daughter Mary in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre that claimed 33 lives, told the Huffington Post. “I think the senators who voted against this will have to live with that vote, and I think they’re going to have to account for themselves.”
Some parents of the 20 children and 6 educators murdered in December’s Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut lamented the Senate’s failure to enact what many saw as the most rudimentary gun control measures.
“Our hearts are broken, our spirits are not,” Mark Barden, whose 6-year-old son Daniel was among the children shot to death at Sandy Hook. “We return home with the determination that change will happen– maybe not today, but it will happen. It will happen soon.”
But opponents of the bill claimed it would not prevent further Sandy Hook-type massacres.
“Expanded background checks would not have prevented Newtown,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asserted. “Criminals do not submit to background checks.”
The five Democrats who voted against the bill are: Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Harry Reid of Nevada, who supported the bill but voted ‘no’ to allow him to call a future revote. Three of the five Democrats who voted ‘no’– Baucus, Begich and Pryor– are from red states and are facing reelection battles in 2014.
Three Republicans besides Toomey– Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois and John McCain of Arizona– voted in favor of the bill.
The Senate also began voting on a series of nine gun control amendments, defeating a measure that would ban assault weapons and large capacity magazines. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) had urged her colleagues to “show some guts” and approve the assault weapons ban, displaying photos of the 20 young children killed at Sandy Hook by a gunman armed with a semiautomatic ‘assault’-style rifle in a bid to sway any undecided senators. It did not work; only 40 lawmakers voted ‘yes’ on the amendment.
Voting will continue on other gun control measures on Thursday morning.
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