Obama's speech came shortly after Senate Republicans and a handful of Democrats defeated bipartisan legislation by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Joe Manchin (D-VA) to close loopholes that exempt a large number of gun sales from background checks. The bill garnered a 54-vote majority versus 46 opposed, but fell short of the 60 needed to overcome the minority's filibuster.
The president pointed out repeatedly that numerous polls had shown overwhelming majority support for the measure, sometimes at 90 percent or higher. He blamed Republicans for caving to pressure by the National Rifle Association, which he said "willfully lied about the bill" in order to "upset an intense minority of gun owners."
"All in all this was a pretty shameful day for Washington," Obama said.
Obama praised lobbying efforts by former Rep Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), who survived a gunshot wound to the head and was in attendance for his remarks, and families of the victims of the Newtown school massacre, some of whom were in Congress for the vote on Wednesday. But he made clear that their work would have to serve as the foundation for a much broader movement to push future bills past a GOP filibuster.
"To the wide majority of NRA households who supported this legislation, you need to let your leadership and lobbyists in Washington know they didn't represent your views on this one," he said "The point is, those who care deeply about preventing more and more gun violence, will have to be as passionate and as organized and vocal as those who blocked these common-sense steps to help keep our kids safe."