Senate shoots down gun control measures
By DAVID ESPO
and ALAN FRAM
The Associated Press | April 18,2013
WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans backed by a small band of rural-state Democrats scuttled the most far-reaching gun control legislation in two decades Wednesday.
They refused to tighten background checks on firearms buyers or ban assault weapons as they spurned the personal pleas of families of the victims of last winter’s elementary school shootings in Newtown, Conn.
“This effort isn’t over,” President Barack Obama vowed at the White House moments after the defeat on one of his top domestic priorities.
Obama, surrounded by Newtown relatives, said opponents of the legislation “caved to the pressure” of special interests in casting their votes.
An attempt to ban assault-style rifles went down, too, and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines faced the same fate in a series of showdown votes four months after a gunman killed 20 elementary school children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
A bid to loosen restrictions on concealed weapons carried across state lines also fell.
That last vote marked a rare defeat for the National Rifle Association on a day it generally emerged triumphant over President Barack Obama, gun control advocates and individuals whose lives have been affected by mass shootings in Connecticut and elsewhere, some of whom watched from the spectator galleries above the Senate floor.
“Shame on you,” shouted one of them, Patricia Maisch, who was present two years ago when a gunman in Tucson, Ariz., killed six and wounded 13 others, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Vice President Joe Biden gaveled the Senate back into order after the breach of decorum.
The background check measure commanded a majority of senators, 54-46, but that was well short of the 60 votes needed to advance.
Forty-one Republicans and five Democrats sided to scuttle the plan.
In the hours before the key vote, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., bluntly accused the National Rifle Association of making false claims about the expansion of background checks that he and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., 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. The proposal “would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution,” said a statement from Chris Cox, a top lobbyist for the group.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said: “Expanded background checks would not have prevented Newtown. Criminals do not submit to background checks.”
The events were unlikely to be the last word on an issue that Democratic leaders shied away from for nearly two decades until Obama picked up on it after the Newtown shootings.