After Senate defeat, gun control advocates vow to fight on

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)

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)

President Barack Obama and his gun control allies say Senate rejection of expanded background checks and other restrictions won’t stop their drive to reduce firearms violence. But their path to enacting gun curbs this year seems blocked by the National Rifle Association, and supporters of restrictions appear befuddled about what it will take to push legislation through this Congress.

The Senate planned to vote Thursday on two more amendments to a gun control bill. One by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., would cut aid to state and local governments that release information on gun owners. Another by Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., would bolster federal mental health programs.

But just four months after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., the Senate proved unwilling Wednesday to approve the key elements of President Barack Obama’s response to the massacre. Lawmakers rejected broader federal background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, jarring gun control backers who thought Newtown would spur Congress to act and delivering a victory for the NRA and a defeat for Obama.

“I see this as just Round One,” the president said at the White House, surrounded by relatives of Newtown’s victims and badly wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Looking ahead to the 2014 congressional elections, he added, “If this Congress refuses to listen to the American people and pass common-sense gun legislation, then the real impact is going to have to come from the voters.”

Obama blamed lawmakers’ fear that “the gun lobby would spend a lot of money” and accuse them of opposing the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.

But opponents of the restrictions — which would have been the most meaningful gun curbs approved by Congress in two decades — said the curbs were defeated because they wouldn’t have worked.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said most proposals were “predicated on one assumption that somehow we think that the criminal element will single out this one law to comply with.”

Added Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., of the expanded background check plan, “This is the first step in the erosion of my rights under the Second Amendment.”

The day was not a complete victory for the NRA. Senators defeated one GOP amendment requiring states that let people carry concealed weapons to honor other states’ concealed carry permits. Also rejected was a Republican proposal letting some veterans with mental problems have firearms unless a court blocks them from getting the weapons.

But when the votes were over, it was gun control advocates who seemed most perplexed about what it would take to succeed. Though an AP-GfK poll shows support for stricter gun laws receding a bit, surveys have also shown 8 in 10 or more people backing expanded background checks.

“There’s never been a bigger disconnect between where the American public is on an issue and where the Senate ended up,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

“Tragically, it may take more mass killings,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who helped craft the bipartisan plan widening background checks, said he would continue talking to other senators to see whether there were changes he could make that would attract their votes. But he conceded he had no answer.

“If I knew, we wouldn’t be talking because it would have passed,” he told a reporter.

No. 2 Senate leader Richard Durbin, D-Ill., was among several Democrats who joined Obama in saying Wednesday’s roll calls left them with an issue to take to voters.

“We’re now in the world of Gabby Giffords and Mayor Bloomberg and organizations that are organized to come out and support those who vote for gun safety and oppose those who don’t,” he said, referring to wealthy New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been financing gun control efforts.

But Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., expressed doubts.

“If it were a real effective political strategy, you wouldn’t have seen a lot of Democrats from Southern states voting with Republicans today,” he said. Some Western Democrats voted against restrictions as well.

NRA lobbyist Chris W. Cox thanked lawmakers for defeating the “misguided” background check expansion, saying it would have criminalized gun transactions between friends — a charge Obama and others called untrue.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, financed by Bloomberg, called the vote “a damning indictment” of the gun lobby’s power.

Wednesday’s key vote came as the Senate rejected a plan by Manchin and Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., to extend background checks — now required for transactions involving gun dealers — to sales at gun shows and online.

The roll call was 54-46 in favor, short of the 60 votes proponents needed. Just four Republicans voted to expand the checks while five Democrats voted no, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who backed the expansion but switched his vote to give himself the right to demand a new roll call in the future.

By agreement between GOP and Democratic leaders, all amendments debated Wednesday needed 60 of the Senate’s 100 votes to pass. While all failed, all received more than 50 votes but two: the proposed bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“Show some guts,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the assault weapons ban sponsor, told her colleagues before the vote, knowing she would lose.

Emotions engulfed those watching the Senate as well.

When the background check amendment failed, Patricia Maisch, watching from a visitors’ gallery, shouted down into the Senate chamber, “Shame on you!” Maisch helped restrain the gunman at the 2011 Tucson shooting in which six people died and 13, including Giffords, were wounded.

Also in the Capitol was Carlee Soto, younger sister of slain Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher Vicki Soto.

“We elected these people,” Carlee said. “I have no idea whose voice they were speaking for today.”

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Associated Press writers Donna Cassata, Laurie Kellman, Richard Lardner and Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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8 Responses to "After Senate defeat, gun control advocates vow to fight on"

  1. Sandy Price  April 18, 2013 at 8:41 am

    How much attention does this loss of a good bill, can be found within the American voters? It should be time for organizing a return to an ethical Senate. It makes me sick to read that Rand Paul is the new GOP hero.

    The American voters should replace their Senators who were bought by the Gun Lobby. But how many really pay attention and give a damn?

  2. woody188  April 18, 2013 at 9:00 am

    This whole victory for the NRA and defeat for Obama is silly. The laws were poorly thought out and did absolutely nothing to curb gun violence. It would have been a waste of time and money to vote for it. I had to laugh listening to Obama last night claiming it was a good bill. All I could think of was how naive he must be if he really believed that!

  3. Sandy Price  April 18, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Woody, the chatter following the vote seemed to indicate that Obama should have no success on any subject. Could he not have adopted this Bill, would it have passed?

    I hope the voters can recognize the fear that struck the hysteria of having a man of color in the white House.

    There were many other items to change but the gun people and the religious right would have shot them down.

    I come from a load of police force relatives and even had a cousin who was an FBI agent. I spoke to an Agent on Tuesday and he told me honestly that Obama understood right from wrong and many of his agents respected him. He was my first Democratic vote.

    I do not regret my voting for Obama twice! The GOP turned sour.

  4. Wayne K Dolik  April 18, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Mr. President, you are wrong. Fast and Furious was round number one.

  5. Jim B.  April 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    The blockage of common sense reform re: the gun laws shows who holds greater sway with the Repubs. who rejected the bill…They care more for an amendment than they do the lives of Americans…If Sandy Hook and the childen and teachers who lost their lives does not move them off the mark, I don’t know what will.

    It’s disappointing that they’ve lost their compassion and empathy for victims especially such young victims.

    It appears to be a corruption of the soul and the spirit to not act for the common good, but only for an amendment and a powerful lobbying group.

  6. Wayne K Dolik  April 18, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    No Jim B, we have not lost our compassion for victims. Many Americans have stopped letting the media/government pull at our heart strings, only to find out later that, those entities lied. Nuff said!

  7. Sandy Price  April 19, 2013 at 5:54 am

    I tend to side with Jim B on this one. I have been a news freak since the end of WW2. Speaking with our returning soldiers is what pulled at my heart strings.I volunteered at Wadsworth Vets Hospital and listened to those who gave service to all of us.

    I researched both political parties to see which group held the American citizens in their attitude and actions. I despised the color barrier that grew in our American voters.

    I do not completely trust our media/government so I have taken to reading the words of those who needed compassion from all Americans.

    If the congress is made up of liars, then it is the voters who are responsible for their actions.

    When I discovered the internet, I really thought it would be the tool to train the voters to analyze what our House and Senate was doing. I now believe that they are too lazy to research any issue that might improve their lives.

    Television news is now a version of the Comedy Channel and all news is played for laughs. I stick to CSPAN.

    • Jim B.  April 19, 2013 at 4:05 pm

      Thanks for your support, Sandy!

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