Gun control loses: No expanded background checks
Neil Heslin, father of Newtown victim Jesse Lewis, left, and former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., stand with President Barack Obama as he pauses while surrounded by Newtown families and speaking about measures to reduce gun violence, in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, April 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama arrives to participate in a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, Wednesday, April 17, 2013, in Washington, about measures to reduce gun violence. With tObama is former Rep. Gabby Giffords, left, and Mark Barden, the father of Newtown shooting victim Daniel. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, center, is escorted in the hallway outside the Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 17, 2013, before the start of a Senate vote on gun control legislation. Giffords, badly wounded in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, tried to rally support for gun control by visiting Capitol Hill and attending a private lunch with Democratic senators. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
FILE - In this March 7, 2013 file photo, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Paul says he is considering a presidential campaign in 2016 but will not make a decision before next year. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
This video frame grab provided by Senate Television shows Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. using a poster of weapons as she speaks about gun legisalation, Wednesday, April 17, 2013, on the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington. A bipartisan effort to expand background checks was in deep trouble Wednesday as the Senate approached a long-awaited vote on the linchpin of the drive to curb gun violence. (AP Photo/Senate Television)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. is seen in an elevator on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 17, 2013, after speaking on the Senate floor about gun legislation. A bipartisan effort to expand background checks was in deep trouble Wednesday as the Senate approached a long-awaited vote on the linchpin of the drive to curb gun violence. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. waits for an elevator on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 17, 2013, after speaking about gun legislation on the Senate floor. A bipartisan effort to expand background checks was in deep trouble Wednesday as the Senate approached a long-awaited vote on the linchpin of the drive to curb gun violence. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama, right, puts his arm around former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., before he speaks in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, april 17, 2013, about measures to reduce gun violence. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Carlee Soto, sister of Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto, left, and Erica Laffferty, daughter of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, embrace outside the Senate chamber after a vote on gun legislation on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, in Washington. Senate Republicans backed by a small band of rural-state Democrats scuttled the most far reaching gun control legislation in two decades, rejecting calls to tighten background checks on firearms buyers. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Senate Republicans backed by a small band of rural-state Democrats scuttled the most far-reaching gun control legislation in two decades yesterday, rejecting tighter background checks for buyers and a ban on assault weapons as they spurned pleas from families of victims of last winter’s school massacre in Newtown, Conn.
“This effort isn’t over,” President Obama vowed at the White House moments after the defeat on one of his top domestic priorities.
Surrounded by Newtown relatives, he said opponents of the legislation in both parties “caved to the pressure” of special interests.
A ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines also fell in a series of showdown votes four months after a gunman killed 20 elementary school children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary.
A bid to loosen restrictions on concealed weapons carried across state lines was rejected, as well.
That last vote marked a rare defeat for the National Rifle Association on a day it generally triumphed over Obama, gun control advocates and many of the individuals whose lives have been affected by mass shootings in Connecticut and elsewhere.
Some of them watched from the spectator galleries above the Senate floor. “Shame on you,” shouted one, Patricia Maisch, who was present two years ago when a gunman in Tucson, Ariz., killed six and wounded 13 others, including former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
By agreement of Senate leaders, a 60-vote majority was required for approval of any of the provisions brought to a vote. The vote on the background check was 54-46, well short of the 60 votes needed to advance. Forty-one Republicans and five Democrats voted to reject the plan.
The proposed ban on assault weapons commanded 40 votes; the bid to block sales of high capacity ammunition clips drew 46.
The NRA-backed proposal on concealed carry permits got 57.
In the hours before the key vote on background checks, Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, bluntly accused the National Rifle Association of making false claims about the expansion of background checks that he and Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, were backing.
“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,” he said, accusing the organization of telling its supporters that friends, neighbors and some family members would need federal permission to transfer ownership of firearms to one another.
The NRA did not respond immediately to the charge, but issued a statement after the vote that restated the claim.
Obama, standing near Giffords and relatives of other shooting victims, said at the White House public opinion was strongly behind expanded background checks.
Despite that, opponents of the legislation were “worried that the gun lobby would spend a lot of money” at the next election, he said.
“So all in all this was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” he added.
Last week, Obama traveled to Connecticut, and he invited several parents to fly back to Washington with him aboard Air Force One so they could personally lobby lawmakers.
To an unusual degree for professional politicians, some senators said afterward that they had not wanted to meet with the mothers and fathers of the dead, or said it was difficult to look at photographs that the parents carried of their young children, now dead.
Sen. Rand Paul, a Republicans from Kentucky, said before yesterday’s vote, “I think that in some cases, the president has used them as props, and that disappoints me.”
Without referring to Paul by name, Obama rebutted him firmly. “Do we really think that thousands of families whose lives have been shattered by gun violence don’t have a right to weigh in on this issue?” he said.
At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said some of them had met earlier in the day with lawmakers, who he said should “consider who they’re representing.
“Ninety percent of the American people support expanded background checks,” he said.