April 17, 2013

Obama blasts senators: 'Shameful day'

Visibly angry, he tells the nation, 'all in all this was a pretty shameful day for Washington.'

By ED O'KEEFE and PHILIP RUCKER The Washington Post

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President Barack Obama hugs Nicole Hockley, mother of Dylan who was killed in the Newtown School shootings, during conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, Wednesday, April 17, 2013, in Washington, about measures to reduce gun violence, as he is joined by former Rep. Gabby Giffords, second from left, Vice President Joe Biden, and other Newtown family members from left, Neil Heslin, father of Jesse Lewis; Jimmy Greene, father of Ana; Mark and Jackie Barden, with their children Natalie and James, who lost Daniel; and Jeremy Richman, father of Avielle, behind the Barden's.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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Obama insisted that Wednesday's votes were "round one" and pledged to do everything he can to take further action. He also warned of political consequences in the 2014 midterm elections.

"We can do more if Congress gets its act together," Obama said. "And if this Congress refuses to listen to the American people and enact common-sense gun legislation, then the real impact is going to have to come from the voters."

The NRA celebrated the collapse of the Manchin-Toomey proposal.

"This amendment 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," NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox said in a statement.

Republican opponents said the Manchin-Toomey amendment eventually would have led to a national gun registry, even though the proposal included language outlawing a federal registry. They also said it would do little to prevent mass shootings while creating an imposition for law-abiding citizens, especially those in rural areas.

"My biggest concern with the legislation, the Democrat legislation on the floor, is it doesn't address the problem," said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex. "It doesn't target violent criminals. Instead, what it does is, it targets law-abiding citizens."

The NRA galvanized its members to pepper senators with letters, e-mails, phone calls and appearances at town hall meetings, which convinced enough of them that voting for the measures would jeopardize their reelection prospects.

A series of votes Wednesday afternoon revealed insufficient Republican support for all of the proposals Obama sought. First, in a 54 to 46 vote, just four Republicans joined the majority of Democrats to support the Manchin-Toomey background check proposal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., voted no to preserve special privileges to call another vote on the amendment at any time, meaning supporters fell five short of the 60-vote threshold required for approval.

In other votes, just 40 senators supported the assault-weapons ban and 46 supported limiting the size of ammunition magazines. In addition, an NRA-backed measure that clarified gun-trafficking laws fell short, with just 58 votes, stunning Democrats.

More senators, 57, voted for a provision that would greatly expand gun rights - allowing people with permits to carry concealed weapons in their states to carry them nationwide - than supported expanding background checks.

"We've got to bring these votes back to the American people," said freshman Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. "This is worse than I ever thought."

The raw emotion of the defeat played out in the Senate gallery just after Biden, presiding over the Senate, read the vote count.

"Shame on you," at least two women were heard shouting.

As police escorted them from the Capitol, Patricia Maisch and Lori Haas said they were angry. Maisch knocked a large ammunition magazine out of the hands of Jared Lee Loughner in January 2011 after he shot Giffords and other bystanders.

"They are an embarrassment to this country," Maisch said as officers tried to remove her from the building. "I hate them," she added of the senators.

Haas, whose daughter, Emily, was wounded in the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, said: "We're sick and tired of the death in this country and these legislators stand up there and think it's a bunch of numbers. . . . It's a shame, it's appalling, it's disgusting."

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