Senate Guns Down Background Checks

The NRA prevails in its fight with Obama

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Evan Vucci / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Senator Chuck Schumer, right, speaks as Senator Richard Blumenthal, third from left, hugs Carlee Soto, sister of Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto, second from left, and Erica Lafferty, daughter of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, after a vote on gun legislation on Capitol Hill on April 17, 2013

“Shame on you!” shouted an elderly woman seated in the Senate gallery late Wednesday afternoon. The Senate had just rejected a bipartisan deal to expand gun-sale background checks, a measure some 90% of the American people support. For a moment the members, who had been huddling in small groups and cracking jokes as they milled on the blue carpet, looked up in astonishment. A second woman called out; both were ushered into the hallway. Then the members of the Senate, in their defiantly analog way — a simple finger down after catching the eye of the clerk calling roll — resumed the quiet process of killing the best chance at a gun-control bill in a generation.

It was a bruising defeat for gun-control advocates, just five months after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary raised hopes that the gun lobby could be beaten if not exactly tamed. The Obama Administration pulled out all the stops to prevent it, mounting a vigorous lobbying push. Vice President Joe Biden presided from the dais. Gabby Giffords roamed the halls of the Capitol. Relatives of the victims of recent mass shootings, ribbons honoring the fallen pinned to their shirts, looked on from the gallery to apply an extra ounce of pressure.

None of it worked. In the first significant defeat of President Obama’s second term, the Democrat-controlled Senate was unable to overcome a Republican filibuster on the bipartisan background-check deal crafted by West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey. The measure, which was weaker than what gun-control advocates wanted, fell 54 to 46 — falling several votes short of the 60-vote threshold required. Four Republicans supported it, and four Democrats voted no.

A day that Democrats said would prove the NRA’s power had waned instead showcased its strength as well as the difficulty of threading even modest gun restrictions through Congress. The Manchin-Toomey amendment, which would have expanded background checks to gun shows and online sales, was the cornerstone of the gun bill, and after it failed, the rest of the Democrats’ wish list evaporated as well. An amendment to reinstate the assault-weapons ban went down as expected, 40 to 60. An amendment to limit high-capacity magazines lost, 46 to 54. Even a bipartisan agreement to curb gun trafficking — which had the support of the NRA — succumbed, 58 to 42. All seven votes on the day failed to clear the 60-vote threshold.

“It’s devastating. The Senate said no to the American people,” says Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. “The deck is stacked against us if we need 60 votes. The majority was in favor, but we need more than a majority.”

In the corridors of the Capitol, supporters of the bill pointed many fingers of blame. There was the NRA, which Manchin accused of lying about the legislation’s contents. There were Republicans, like Nevada’s Dean Heller or Ted Cruz of Texas, who opposed the measure on the grounds that it would be the first step toward a national gun registry — an outcome the bill explicitly forbids. And there were the moderate Democrats from rural, gun-happy states who are up for re-election in 2014 and didn’t want to risk their political futures on a bill that was sure to die in the Republican-controlled House anyway.

The families of the victims, who have been camped out on Capitol Hill for the better part of two weeks, knew all along, as Senate majority leader Harry Reid said, that “this wouldn’t be easy.” Asked what she expected to happen on Wednesday, Erica Lafferty, the 27-year-0ld daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary’s murdered principal, said succinctly: “This.”

“I’ve been roaming the halls of the Senate building all week,” she said, noting that she met with several Senators who opposed new gun measures on the grounds that they wouldn’t have prevented the Newtown tragedy. “It wouldn’t have stopped Sandy Hook. I’m more aware than anyone in this entire world that background checks would not — are not going to bring my mom back,” she said. “I get that. Background checks might make sure that another 27-year-old kid doesn’t have to get married in another two months without her mom.”

What comes next after the emotional loss? Democrats pledged to recommit to the issue. “Today fear, mistruth and brute political force won out over what is right, and America will be a less safe place because of it,” conceded Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, one of the architects of the background-check deal. “But I say to the American people, so many of whom just can’t understand what’s happening here in this capital — don’t give up faith. Things change quickly here in Washington. They changed for gay marriage. They’re changing for immigration. And they will change for gun safety sooner than you think.”

The background-check package can be brought up again — Reid voted “no” in a procedural move that allows him to reintroduce the amendment again — but it’s unclear when supporters will be able to piece together the votes if they couldn’t on Wednesday. “The bill is still on the calendar. This fight is far from over,” says Blumenthal, but as he noted, the Senate is structured so that a determined minority can thwart the will of the body, let alone the wishes of American voters.

As they proved on Wednesday, Republicans remain committed to opposing even modest changes to gun law. “Look, there’s not one of us who wouldn’t want to find a way to prevent anything like Sandy Hook from ever happening again. We have different ideas about how best to get there,” said Utah Republican Mike Lee after the vote. In the wake of tragedies like the one in Newtown, Lee said, gun bills are often considered as an “abstract” concept, rather than assessed through the prism of their potential impact. “I’m not interested in voting for legislation that would do little or nothing to prevent violent crime.”

Gun violence is not an abstract issue, however, for the families of the victims. It is not abstract to Patricia Maisch, the woman who shamed the Senate from the gallery. Maisch was present at Gabby Giffords’ “Congress on Your Corner” event at a Tucson shopping mall in January 2011, when a deranged constituent killed six people and wounded 13 more with a high-capacity Glock. Maisch, petite and in her 60s, pried a clip out of the shooter’s hands as he tried to reload. “They are an embarrassment to this country,” she told reporters after. “They don’t have any compassion or care for people who have been taken brutally from their families.” They “stand up there and think it’s a bunch of numbers,” seethed Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was shot and wounded at Virginia Tech in 2007.

In the end, Democrats acknowledged, the best way to change the law may be to change the people charged with making it. “There is more that we can do and will do, reaching out to convince those members who voted the other way today, and perhaps in the next election to challenge them,” said Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Said Reid: “This is just the beginning — this is not the end.” But the next round could be months, or even years, away.

149 comments
KrisRosvold
KrisRosvold

Lets see...an estimated 70% to 90% (depending on who you listen to) of Americans favor Background checks for all gun purchases. Yet the "representatives" vote it down...I'd say it's HIGH time for some progressive doses of tar and feathers in Washington DC.  The law as written says NOTHING prohibiting the ownership of guns and ammo UNLESS you happen to be nucking futts or a criminal (specifically a felon).  So where is the actual problem that caused the NRA to lobby so hard against it?  Oh Yea...it would cut out a source of profit for them....oops...and we have a Congress owned by corporations.

RickHunter
RickHunter

"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.-Thomas Jefferson"

valentine.godoflove
valentine.godoflove

Poor Sandy Hook survivors......being used by the Democrats as props  to do their anti 2nd amendment work........those Sandy Hook are too ill informed to know the purpose and the value of the 2nd amendment.......a crazy killed their children......the obama democrats and the hypocritical obama humself......use Sandy Hook children ,,,,,,to broaden their violation of the constitution.....

Down with obama and the Democrats who are neo socialist/communists who want to dis-arm the american citizens so they can herd them like cattle......

Where are the brave patriots of the 1776 type who have the bralls to drive out obama and the traitors to the constitution.

valentine, comedian

LarryRhodes
LarryRhodes

This is one of the main reasons the American people should step up and vote in term limits . Two term limits for senators, and four terms for congress. We should also change Supreme Court justices so as not to be a life sentence for the American people.r

DebbieHanrahan
DebbieHanrahan

Evidence we are no longer a democratic representative republic.   No majority rule.  No representation.  No of, by, for people.   Corporatocracy mixed with American Sharia Law.  It's a shame and a sham.  Corporations (and yes the NRA is a corporation) have bought and our representatives have sold themselves to the highest bidder who now own, buy, sell the USA.  Might as well slap a 666 on the foreheads of CEO's, Congress, SCOTUS, as they all have sold their souls to the Deceiver. 

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

“This is a matter of vital importance to the public safety ... While we recognize that assault-weapon legislation will not stop all assault-weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals.” 
--Ronald Reagan, in a May 3, 1994 letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, which was also signed by Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. 

“I do not believe in taking away the right of the citizen for sporting, for hunting and so forth, or for home defense. But I do believe that an AK-47, a machine gun, is not a sporting weapon or needed for defense of a home.”
--Ronald Reagan, in a speech at his 78th birthday celebration in Los Angeles on February 6, 1989. 

“Certain forms of ammunition have no legitimate sporting, recreational, or self-defense use and thus should be prohibited.”
--Ronald Reagan, in an August 28, 1986 signing statement on a bill that banned the production and importation of armor-piercing bullets. 

“With the right to bear arms comes a great responsibility to use caution and common sense on handgun purchases.”
--Ronald Reagan, speech at George Washington University in a on March 29, 1991. 

“Every year, an average of 9,200 Americans are murdered by handguns, according to Department of Justice statistics. This does not include suicides or the tens of thousands of robberies, rapes and assaults committed with handguns. This level of violence must be stopped.”
--Ronald Reagan, in a March 29, 1991 New York Times op-ed in support of the Brady Bill. 

“I think maybe there could be some restrictions that there had to be a certain amount of training taken.”
--Ronald Reagan, in a press conference in Toronto on June 21, 1988, suggesting that prospective gun owners should have to receive training before purchasing a firearm. 

“Well, I think there has to be some (gun) control.”
--Ronald Reagan, during a question-and-answer session with high-school students on November 14, 1988.

Was Ronald Reagan anti-Constitution?

paulejb
paulejb

 "Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?"

Patrick Henry

whatt?
whatt?

It's to bad he didn't get his way!!

AlistairCookie
AlistairCookie

And the Lord said, "What hast thou done?  The voice of thy brother's blood cryeth unto Me from the ground!"

The voice of those children are crying from the ground.  And those that came before.  And those that will come after.  What a shameful display.

paulejb
paulejb

 Want meaningful gun control? Support STOP & FRISK nationwide.

jmac
jmac

Low and behold - a gun amendment supported by gun advocates passes the 60 vote line:

" . . .  a provision to bar state and local governments from releasing information about gun ownership, sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). It would penalize states and localities that reveal data on licenses, permits and locations of gun owners by docking 5 percent of the locality's community policing funding."




jmac
jmac

"Few Republicans celebrated their vote, even as Democrats fanned out across the Capitol to denounce the failure of the bill."  (NY Times)

Fox News was basically on radio silence on the issue.  Mark Glaze, the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said his group's campaign will start anew today.  He said, "You have grown men making statements that they plainly know to be false reading directly from talking points from a gun lobby that plainly knows them to be false."  Good for Obama for calling the NRA liars.  For two long Republicans have been able to lie to their constituents and get away with it, whether it be on the economy, healthcare, immigration, or what was in a gun bill.  

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

Criminals and the mentally unsound that would have been blocked from obtaining firearms through their typical channels appreciate the NRA fighting for their rights to buy guns so they can shoot people.

grape_crush
grape_crush

"One avenue of investigation is already closed off to forensic officials working the Boston Marathon bombing case due to efforts dating back decades by the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers.

The FBI said Tuesday that gunpowder, along with pieces of metal and ball bearings, were packed into at least one pressure cooker and another device to make the crude bombs that killed three people—including an 8-year-old boy—and wounded more than 170 more during the Boston Marathon Monday.

But a crucial piece of evidence called a taggant that could be used to trace the gunpowder used in the bombs to a buyer at a point of sale is not available to investigators."

tommyudo
tommyudo

All politics are local. There is only one way that there will ever be stiff gun control laws on a state or federal level. Unfortunately, it will take more Newtown and Aurora incidents in the Red States to put pressure on these cowardly yahoos who really don't give a damn what happens in a northern blue state like CT or a large urban area like Denver. It has to hit home. We have seen the same thing hold true with natural disasters. GOP cretins like Eric Cantor and his ilk don't want FEMA money spent unless there is an offset, but when a disaster occurs with their constituents its a different story. Sad to say, but much of human nature is predicated on self interest, and in this case electoral self  preservation. The honey pot in DC and the state houses is too vast for these people to walk away from. When the pressure gets too much they will cave.

grape_crush
grape_crush

Oh, the irony. Apparently the exercise of a constitutionally-guaranteed right can be limited, and performance of a background check on those who would exercise that right is a-OK:

"'Shame on you!' Patricia Maisch and Lori Haas yelled in rapid succession at the 46 senators who had just voted to kill a compromise amendment to expand background checks for gun purchases at gun shows or online. The women were sitting in the gallery with a large group of gun violence victims as the Senate responded to the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut by defeating the measure advocates and law enforcement officials consider crucial to keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

The pair has first-hand experience with the consequences of the broken system. In 2011, Maisch was hailed as a hero for disarming Tucson shooter Jared Loughner by wrestling him to the ground before he could reload a fresh magazine. Haas’ daughter Emily was shot twice during the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 and survived, leading her to become a proponent of stronger gun regulations. But on Wednesday afternoon, the two women faced tighter scrutiny for interrupting a Senate proceeding than many individuals seeking to purchase guns. 

As they left the Senate gallery, a police officer approached and asked them to follow him. The three walked downstairs to a public hallway, where they were peppered with questions: 'What’s your name?' 'Where are you from?' 'What are your Social Security numbers?' The officer left to run a background check on the women, who were instructed to sit on a bench. Another uniformed officer watched over them, even escorted Haas to the bathroom and told her she couldn’t lock the stall door.

[...]

An hour and a half later, another law enforcement official approached and quizzed the the two women further. He asked them about their intentions and where they were from, why they were in D.C., how long they planned to stay and when they were leaving.

The entire ordeal stretched for almost two hours — approximately 115 minutes longer than a background check at a federal gun dealer. Haas noted the irony of undergoing hours of questioning while permitting gun purchases without any screening at gun shows or online."


Think_again
Think_again

In the absence of a law establishing background checks, criminals are buying guns and using them.

From the NYT op ed yesterday:

"From 20 percent to 40 percent of all gun sales now take place without a background check, and the bill rejected on Wednesdaywould have required the check for buyers at gun shows, on the Internet and at other commercially advertised sales. It was sponsored by two pro-gun senators with the courage to buck the lobby, Joe Manchin III, a Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick Toomey, a Republican of Pennsylvania.

The critical need for this measure was illustrated by a report in The Times on Wednesdaythat showed how easy it is for criminals to buy weapons on the Internet without a look at their backgrounds. One widely popular Web site contains tens of thousands of private postings of gun sales, and The Times’s investigation found that many buyers and sellers were criminals. Some of the guns have been used to kill."


shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@LarryRhodes  

What good would term limits do as long as people are stupid enough to keep electing Republicans?

DebbieHanrahan
DebbieHanrahan

@paulejb   FYI: Patrick Henry was an Anti-Federalist.  Voted against the Constitution ratification because it did not have a Bill of Rights.  Believed that a well trained militia as those who should be trusted with arms.  Visit Red Hill someday.  While the Voice of Liberty was an orator he still has many writings to be read.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@AlistairCookie 

Pro-gun enthusiasts like those we see in topics like this are seemingly glad to see people die for their right to be uninhibited to own any firearm they may desire.  That's the only conclusion I can come to when, immediately following a tragedy like the Boston Bombing, they bring up gun control with snarky comments like "maybe they should ban bombs next".  Disgusting people with vile hearts.

paulejb
paulejb

@jmac 

Obama calling anyone a liar is the pot calling the kettle black. Barack Hussein Obama has perpetrated more lies than the whole Nixon administration combined.

paulejb
paulejb

@tommyudo

Tommy is one of those low information liberals who is unaware that the State of Connecticut already has strict gun control laws.

"Connecticut gun laws among the toughest in the U.S."

“In general, the laws here are pretty strict, and they’re working,” said Bob Crook, executive director of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen. “But I don’t know of any law that would prevent someone like at Columbine or at Aurora or here in Connecticut from committing these offenses which are clearly psychologically based.”

http://www.dfmpolitics.com/2012/12/connecticut-gun-laws-among-the-toughest-in-the-u-s/

mary.waterton
mary.waterton

@Think_again 

You can order a gun over the internet from outside the country and have the US Postal Service deliver it to your front door. It's just more Washington BS.


Now maybe Obama can get "mad" about fixing the economy. It's been 5 years and real unemployment is still around 15%

paulejb
paulejb

@DebbieHanrahan @paulejb

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined.... O sir, we should have fine times, indeed, if to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people!"

Patrick Henry

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@paulejb "Obama has perpetrated more lies than the whole Nixon administration combined."

Nice poster child for White House lies. What, you slept through the Reagan and Bush Administrations? They made Nixon's look like a prayer group. Obama couldn't come up with as many outrageous falsehoods if he were president in perpetuity. And you're no one to call anyone a liar. Liar.

tommyudo
tommyudo

@paulejb @tommyudo 

I wasn't talking about the gun laws of CT, which is a solidly blue state. For you knuggledraggers, reading comprehension is a skill that is unknown. You were supposed to take a hike when Willard lost in Nov., so how about taking that hike now.

grape_crush
grape_crush

 @mary.waterton@Think_again > You can order a gun over the internet from outside the country and have the US Postal Service deliver it to your front door.

Maybe that can be changed as well?

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@paulejb 

"Lies only work with low information liberals. They actually believe that this gun control bill will save lives."

You actually believe it will infringe on your right to belong to a well-regulated militia. Better low-information than low-comprehension.

paulejb
paulejb

@jmac @shepherdwong @paulejb 

Lies only work with low information liberals. They actually believe that this gun control bill will save lives. It's ain't so, sport.

jmac
jmac

@shepherdwong @paulejb He missed the all important part of my sentence - the GOP continually lies to it's base.  They've gotten away with it because the base is ignorant enough they haven't figured it out yet.  

paulejb
paulejb

@shepherdwong @paulejb 

 One of Barack Milhouse Obama's first acts was to lie about closing Gitmo. It's been one lie after another since that day.

Urbanitus
Urbanitus

@paulejb @Urbanitus  har har, Paul.  For someone that appears to think America is going to hell, you sure seem to revel in it.