A visibly angry President Barack Obama declared it a “shameful day for Washington” after a group of senators successfully blocked an amendment to expand background checks for gun-buyers on Wednesday, but vowed that it was “just round one.”
Flanked by families of victims of the Newtown, Conn. massacre and by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the White House Rose Garden, Obama said a “minority in the U.S. Senate” went against the wishes of an overwhelming majority of the American people.
“Families that know unspeakable grief summoned the courage to petition their elect leaders,” Obama said. “A few minutes ago, a minority in the U.S. Senate decided it wasn’t worth it. They blocked common sense gun reform even while these families looked on from the Senate gallery.”
He said that while “a majority of senators voted yes to protecting more of our citizens with smarter background checks,” a minority of members were able to use a “distortion” of Senate rules to derail it.
The amendment had been the bipartisan effort of Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) — “a Democrat and a Republican, both gun owners, both fierce defenders of our Second Amendment with ‘A’ grades from the NRA,” Obama said.
“Instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill…[they] claimed it would create a ‘big brother’ gun registry,” Obama said. He said the “pattern of spreading untruths” about the legislation served a purpose: to enrage a vocal minority of gun owners.
He said the opponents of the amendment had “no coherent arguments” about why it should be harder for criminals and those with mental illness to buy a gun, but that senators “caved to the pressure and they started looking for an excuse, any excuse to vote no.”
Obama said there will be some who will call the amendment’s failure a victory.
“A victory for who? A victory for what?” he asked. “All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that allows dangerous criminals to buy guns without a background check.”
Obama had been introduced at the podium by Mark Barden, whose 6-year-old son Daniel Barden was slain at Sandy Hook Elementary in December. Obama said he has heard some refer to the Newtown families as “a prop” and “emotional blackmail” when they lobbied members of Congress
“Are they serious? Do we really think that thousands of families whose lives have been shattered by gun violence do not have a right to weigh in on this issue?” Obama asked.
He vowed that the fight for more gun control measures is not over, despite the setback.
“All in all this was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” Obama said. “But this effort is not over…we can still bring about meaningful changes that reduce gun violence so long as the American people don’t give up on them.”
He said that if members of Congress won’t listen to the American people, they’ll have to hear from the voters come next election.
“I see this as just round one,” Obama said. “When Newtown happened I met with these families and I spoke to the community and I said something must be different right now. We’re going to have to change…I believe we’re going to be able to get this done. Sooner or later, we’re going to get this right.