Senate rejects series of tougher gun-control measures

Did senators get it right or wrong? Share your thoughts in the comments section at the end of this story.
MCT Regional News
Apr 17, 2013

Gun control advocates led by President Barack Obama suffered a huge setback Wednesday as the Senate defeated a delicately crafted compromise aimed at strengthening background checks for gun buyers — and then proceeded to reject a ban on assault weapons and limits on ammunition clips.

The votes were a bitter reminder that winning even the most gentle of gun control measures faces a near-impossible path to winning congressional approval.

“All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” a clearly irritated Obama said after the background check vote.

Gun control backers thought this time might be different, that they could reverse the years of frustration getting meaningful gun control legislation approved. The horror of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, where a gunman killed 20 schoolchildren and six adults in Newtown, Conn., was never far from the minds of senators.

Victims of gun violence from Newtown, Tucson, Colorado and other sites of recent horrors watched the votes from the galleries. “Shame on you!” Patricia Maisch, a survivor of the January 2011 Tucson shopping center shootings, shouted as the Senate vote to reject the background check compromise was announced.

At the White House after the vote, Mark Barden, the father of a child killed at Sandy Hook, recalled how “we met with dozens of Democrats and Republicans, and shared with them pictures of our children, our spouses, our parents who lost their lives on December 14th. Expanded background checks wouldn’t have saved our loved ones, but still we came to support a bipartisan proposal from two senators.”

The disappointment and anger were clear. Obama had a personal lobbying effort unlike any seen by a president since the Clinton administration. After the background check defeat, he went to the Rose Garden, flanked by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Vice President Joe Biden, and put the blame for the defeat squarely on the gun lobby. Giffords was severely wounded in the Tucson incident.

“All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check,” Obama said.

“Instead of supporting this compromise,” he said, “the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill. They claimed that it would create some sort of ‘big brother’ gun registry, even though the bill did the opposite.”

The strategy worked, Obama lamented. “Unfortunately, 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.”

To change Washington, he said, “You, the American people, are going to have to sustain some passion about this. And when necessary, you’ve got to send the right people to Washington.”

In vote after vote Wednesday afternoon, gun control backers came up short of the 60 needed for passage.

The background check compromise got 54 votes. The assault weapons ban got 40, even after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., pleaded with colleagues to “show some guts.” The effort to put curbs on ammunition clips got 46 votes.

The votes largely reflected geography. Senators from more rural, more conservative states sided with gun rights advocates. Senators with more urban constituencies backed gun control.

Gun rights supporters tried to get some changes to the bill, and those too failed. A bid to expand concealed-carry laws got 57 votes. An alternative to the background check compromise got 52.

Many had thought the tortured memory of Newtown would finally help win at least the background check effort.

“If tragedy strikes again — if innocents are gunned down in a classroom or a theater or a restaurant — I could not live with myself as a father, as a husband, as a grandfather or as a friend knowing that I didn’t do everything in my power to prevent it,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

But conscience meant different things to different senators.

Reid’s Nevada colleague, Republican Sen. Dean Heller, was seen as a potential swing vote for the background check compromise. He voted no.

“The onerous paperwork and expansion of federal power mandated in this legislation are too great of a concern,” he explained in a statement. “I believe that this legislation could lead to the creation of a national gun registry and puts additional burdens on law-abiding citizens.”

That was the opponents’ chief complaint. The background check provision was viewed as a mild form of gun control. Crafted by gun rights backers Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., it would extend background checks to gun shows and online sales but would exempt private transactions.

Manchin, a National Rifle Association member, pleaded with colleagues to back the measure and said on the Senate floor that the NRA had lied about the measure’s reach.

“There is not a universal background check,” he said, answering critics. “There is nothing in this bill that basically says that you’re living in a neighborhood, and you want to sell your neighbor your gun, you can do it. No background checks are required.”

Other opponents argued that the Manchin-Toomey approach simply wouldn’t work.

“We should not further strain the existing broken system by expanding the use of an incomplete database to more transactions,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. “We should fix the existing system.”

Grassley and Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, offered an alternative that would increase the number of mental health records entered into the federal background check database.

The Senate voted on a host of other gun provisions. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, tried to require states to respect concealed-carry gun permits issued by other states. Cornyn, speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, insisted that it wouldn’t establish a national standard for concealed-carry.

“What it would do is to effectively treat concealed-carry licenses like a driver’s license,” Cornyn said. “If you’re driving from Virginia to Texas, you don’t have to obtain a separate driver’s license for each state you drive through.”

But Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., drew a line at his state’s border.

“Concealed-carry is my greatest worry,” he told reporters Tuesday. “The good news there is, instead of needing 60 votes, we need 41” to defeat the amendment.

The Senate also voted on a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines long sought by Feinstein. She had succeeded nearly two decades earlier getting an assault weapons ban passed and launched a forceful renewed effort after the Newtown shootings, but by Wednesday morning, she had all but conceded that the push would not succeed.

“Not every issue we vote on in the Senate is a life or death matter — I believe this is,” she said on the Senate floor. “I urge my colleagues to stand tall and support this amendment.”

But few senators were present — one was Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat who was presiding over the empty chamber. She voted no on Feinstein’s amendment.

———

By David Lightman and Curtis Tate - McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

©2013 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Comments

tell it how it is

“All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” a clearly irritated Obama said after the background check vote.

Nope, it was an awesome day in Washington where our elected leaders actually stood up for us for the first time in TOO LONG! Very proud tonight (:

deertracker

You are wrong. They stood up for themselves. They don't care about YOU. You are extremely naïve if you really believe they were looking out for you. Even if the bill had passed nothing would have changed!

tell it how it is

Regardless of whom they stood up for,
it went my way. And the way it should have.

goofus

Question, if the bill would have passed and nothing would have happened, then why the bill in the first place?????

goofus

Deertracker said

Even if the bill had passed nothing would have changed

Then why the bill in the first place??

Estrella Damm

When will congress attempt to enact tougher pressure cooker laws? Sad.

vicariouslyAlive

'Intense minority" is a very subject phrase since about half of US citizens own guns... I realize the numbers are still a bit lower than half by only a few percent... but to act as if the amount of legal gun owners is a small number is a bit rediculous on Obama's part.

Now that we know some politicians still believe in the constitution, let's use this momentum to get a few more rights back.

deertracker

What rights? Do tell!

Bluto

It's funny that the NRA preaching about the evils of a national registry of gun owners that would infringe upon their rights have their own members names , addresses , phone numbers , email addresses , account numbers , etc. , AND they got people to pay them to give up all that info . Hmmm , Sounds like a national gun owner registry already exists to me .

vicariouslyAlive

Good thing I'm not a member of the NRA then isn't it.

You gotta love how when one side loses they have to try vet theast jab in.

Bluto

You may not be a member , but you took the hook , line , and sinker if you're preaching 2nd amendment rights . Take a look at the NRA board of directors . I see an awful lot of politicians , judges , and ex-military on there . Aren't those the very people , that NRA members don't want snooping around their privacy ? They don't trust the people we elected to office , yet those are the same people they choose to give their private information , money , and so called rights to .

hit the road jack

I don't believe or like the people YOU voted into office either!

Bluto

You don't know who I voted for . Perhaps we voted for some of the same people . I am not a registered Dem , or Repub. .I will vote either , or if I like where they stand .

hit the road jack

By reading your posts I doubt we voted for the same people.

Bluto

You may be surprised who I've voted for . I also own guns , but I don't belong to the NRA . I am not one of the paranoid nut case sheeple they herd and manipulate with lies and deceptions.

jack langhals

You mean liked the herding,so the blacks could carry guns to defend themselves,right?Did you know that FDR voted against the hanging of blacks amendment?

betrump

What the heck? Why are you babbling? You make no sense.

hit the road jack

Yes,because of people like you! I like the new law Arizona passed,any guns confiscated have to be re sold to the public,not melted down!

Bluto

Without a background check ?

hit the road jack

Didn't hear about that part but you can open carry in Arizona,I'm pretty sure of that and you don't hear about much trouble with guns there.
Guns are not a problem if you are trained to use them safely,when they quit training the public the safe ways of handling guns in the U.S. that was the begining of people wanting to outlaw them.

Bluto

Arizona has pretty big gang problem , and wait a minute . Isn't that where Gabrielle Giffords was shot along with 18 others by Jared Lee Loughner ? That's right , no problems there.

hit the road jack

And just where are the gangs from? you guessed it MEXICO! Gabbby? wow,one person gets shot now everyone else has to be frisked and strip searched every time they leave home because of a weirdo who is against guns right?
Go to Chicago where it is pretty much impossible to get a gun permit and read yesterdays paper and see how many people were shot by crooks who stole guns and gangs who use them illegally,seems funny,the big cities that are run by the anti gun people are the one's with the most problems.

Bluto

Apparently you missed the part where I said 18 people besides Gabrielle Giffords were shot in the same mass shooting . Hopefully this clarifies it for you.

hit the road jack

Do you think she is any better than you or me? I think not,how many other mass shootings you heard about in Arizona? If you would do some research you would find that about 90% of these nut cases are on drugs issued by the govt.

goofus

I love the expert advice from people who barely know where Arizona is. Open carry is a necessity in the desert where there are rattlesnakes, all ranchers and farmers carry. I remember the gun checks in the supermarkets and other stores when I lived there.

propman

How is it that in every other amendment the word people means individual but not in the 2nd?
There are two parts in the 2nd amendment.
1st: the state may maintain a militia- That means the state(feds) may keep a active military force.
2nd: people mat keep and bear arms without infringments- The individual may own and carry arms without limitations from the government.
If you are convicted of a crime(serious or violent) then as part of you sentence you can be barred from weapons without violating the Constitution

When they took the 4th Amendment, I was quiet because I didn't deal drugs.
When they took the 6th Amendment, I was quiet because I am innocent.
When they took the 2nd Amendment, I was quiet because I don't own a gun.
Now they have taken the 1st Amendment, and I can only be quiet.
– Lyle Myhr

betrump

When over 80% of Americans support the legislation, it is hardly considered congress 'standing up for us.'
I'm sick to death of the stupidity from the right; for instance, let's ban pressure cookers now. Or let's ban cars because people die in accidents every day. The idiocy just makes me scream. Guns are made for one thing only: killing. Just because a framed photo falls and your head and kills you, doesn't mean frames were made to kill. Stop with the weak and stupid arguments.
As far as the Constitution, or specifically the Bill of Rights, I don't understand what is so difficult about it's comprehension. It states 'a WELL REGULATED militia...' What is well regulated about practically anyone getting their hands on any gun whenever they want? How is that regulated, let alone WELL regulated?
The ignorance astounds me...

vicariouslyAlive

80%? wasn't that figure 90% last week?

anyways... no matter what that figure will be next week, it's a flawed data pool taken from WHITE SUBURBAN MIDDLE AMERICA!!! something tells me that if you did the same poll let's say 100 more times in 100 different (ethnically varied and economically varied) locations you might see a real number... but since people didn't do that, i guess we'll never know.

and the well regulated militia is another facet of the 2nd. kind of like an army of the people by the people, and not too long ago up in michigan those folks saw what our government thinks about militias, no matter how small they are... which is probably why they got off without any punishment... they made no threats, just claimed to be a militia, and bam! government smack down... something tells me their 2nd amendment rights got them out of that pickle, but since all news coverage of their release was abysmal at best (a single short story about a returned wedding ring with now coverage as to why they were actually let go) i guess we wont know much about that either.

E.Cartman

There is no 80%, that's a made up figure. Go to Texas or Montana or a number of other states and it might be closer to 8%. The bombing in Boston only proves that killing is in the heart, the weapon is only a matter of choice. Keep believing everything your mocha jesus tells you......that's where the true ignorance is.

betrump

Per the New York Times:
"Nearly 9 in 10 Americans, including majorities across party lines, support background checks for gun purchases at gun shows and online."
I rounded to 80% because the nut jobs would have said I was being dishonest by saying 90%, when in reality it is just UNDER 90%. But you whine and complain anyway.

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