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Hunter Walker

Hunter Walker is a national affairs reporter for TPM. He came to the site in 2013 from the New York Observer. He has also written for New York Magazine, Gawker, the Village Voice, Forbes, The Daily, and Deadspin. He can be reached at hunter@talkingpointsmemo.com

Articles by Hunter

Mark Barden, the father of a seven-year-old boy who was killed in the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut last December gave President Barack Obama an emotional introduction Wednesday evening at a press conference following the defeat of legislation to expand background checks on gun sales in the Senate.  

"What happened in Newtown can happen anywhere. In any instant, any dad in America could be in my shoes. No one should feel the pain. No one should feel our pain or the pain felt by the tens of thousands of people who have lost loved ones to senseless gun violence," Barden said. "That's why we're here. Two weeks ago, twelve of us from Newtown came to meet with U.S. denators and have a conversation about how to bring common-sense solutions to the issues of gun violence. ... We met with dozens of Democrats and Republicans and shared with them pictures of our children, spouses, parents who lost their lives on December 14. Expanded background checks wouldn't have saved our loved ones but, still, we came to support a bipartisan proposal from two senators, both with 'A' ratings from the NRA, a common-sense proposal supported by 90 percent of Americans."

Barden described the background checks bill as "a proposal that will save lives without interfering with the rights of responsible, law-abiding gun owners." He thanked the politicians who supported the legislation and vowed he and other relatives of gun violence victims would continue fighting for it. 

"We'll return home now disappointed but not defeated. We return home with a determination that change will happen. Maybe not today, but it will happen. It will happen soon. We've always known this would be a long road and we don't have the luxury of turning back. We will keep moving forward and build public support for common sense solutions in the areas of mental health, school safety, and gun safety," said Barden. "We take strength from the children and loved ones that we lost and we carry a great faith in the American people. ... Every day as more people are killed in this country because of gun violence our determination grows stronger."

At a press conference Wednesday, President Barack Obama described the Senate vote that defeated a bipartisan compromise to establish expanded background checks on gun sales as "round one" in the fight. Obama vowed the White House would keep pushing to address this issue and also urged Americans to push politicians and lobbyists to end their opposition to "common-sense gun legislation." 

"This was a pretty shameful day for Washington. This effort is not over. I want to make it clear to the American people we can still bring about meaningful changes to reduce gun violence as long as the American people don't give up on it," said Obama. "Even without Congress, my administration will keep doing everything it can to protect more of our communities. We'll address the barriers that prevent the states from participating in the existing background check system. We're going to going to give law enforcement more for their jobs, put in place emergency plans to protect our children in their schools. But we can do more if congress gets its act together."

Obama said Americans can force Congress to support expanded background checks by making their voices heard and, if need be, voting out their current representatives.  

"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. To all the people who supported this legislation, law enforcement and responsible gun owners, democrats and republicans, urban moms, rural hunters, whoever you are, you need to let your representatives in Congress know that you are disappointed, and if they don't act this time, you will remember come election time," Obama said. "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. 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."

If supporters of background checks keep up the pressure, Obama said he believes they will eventually emerge victorious in spite of the power of the gun lobby.

"Ultimately you outnumber those who argued the other way. But they're better organized, they're better financed, they've been at it longer. And they make sure to stay focused on this one issue during election time," said Obama. "That's the reason why you can have something that 90 percent of Americans support, and you can't get it through the Senate or the House of Representatives. So, to change Washington, you, the American people, are going to have to sustain some passion about this." 

At his press conference reacting to the defeat of the bipartisan compromise on expanded background checks for gun sales in the Senate, President Barack Obama said the senators who voted against the bill bowed to political pressure. 

"I talked to several of these senators over the past few weeks. They're all good people. I know all of them were shocked by tragedies like Newtown. And I also understand that they come from states that are strongly pro-gun. I have consistently said there are regional differences when it comes to guns and that both sides have to listen to each other," Obama said. "But the fact is most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn't want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun. There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn't do this. It came down to politics."

The background check legislation was defeated by just eight votes. Obama said the senators who shot it down did so because of the worry that the "vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections" and the "worry that the gun lobby would spend a lot of money and paint them as anti-Second Amendment." He also pointed out that, though the opposition to the bill came mainly from Republicans, members of both parties voted against it.

"Obviously, a lot of Republicans had that fear, but Democrats had that fear, too. And so they caved to the pressure. And they started looking for an excuse, any excuse to vote no," said Obama.

 

President Barack Obama held an emotional press conference in the Rose Garden this afternoon reacting to the failure of legislation to expand background checks on gun sales in the Senate. After being introduced by the father of a child killed at last year's shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, Obama attributed the defeat of the bipartisan background check compromise to "untruths" about the bill spread by the National Rifle Association.

"The current leader of the NRA used to support these background checks. So while this compromise didn't contain everything I wanted or everything that these families wanted, it did represent progress. It represented moderation and common sense," Obama said. "That's why 90 percent of the American people supported it. But instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill."

Obama said the NRA exagerrated the effect of the bill, which scared gun owners and mobilized them to oppose the legislation. 

"They claimed that it would create some sort of big brother gun registry even though the bill did the opposite," said Obama of the NRA. "This legislation in fact outlawed any registry, plain and simple, right there in the text. But that didn't matter. And, unfortunately, this pattern of spreading untruths about this legislation served a purpose. Because those lies upset an intense minority of gun owners and that in turn intimidated a lot of senators."

Despite the defeat of this bill, Obama vowed to continue pushing for expanded background checks saying, "We're going to be able to get this done, sooner or later." 

Update: April 18, 2013 2:26 PM Investigators in the Boston Marathon bombing have been sifting through the massive pile of digital images that were submitted from local businesses and members of the public in search of a suspect. While investigators analyze these videos and photos, a cadre of anonymous internet users have been conducting an investigation of their own. On online forums, pictures of the scene immediately before and after the attack are being collected and analyzed. Though this amateur digital sleuthing has yielded tantalizing theories of whodunnit it also has a darker side as photos are being shared identifying potentially innocent people as suspects.

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the nation's most prominent gun control critics, issued a scathing statement Wednesday after legislation to expand background checks to gun shows and Internet sales failed in the Senate:

Today’s vote is a damning indictment of the stranglehold that special interests have on Washington. More than 40 U.S. senators would rather turn their backs on the 90 percent of Americans who support comprehensive background checks than buck the increasingly extremist wing of the gun lobby. Democrats – who are so quick to blame Republicans for our broken gun laws – could not stand united. And Republicans – who are so quick to blame Democrats for not being tough enough on crime – handed criminals a huge victory, by preserving their ability to buy guns illegally at gun shows and online and keeping the illegal trafficking market well-fed. Senators Manchin and Toomey – as well as Majority Leader Reid and Senators Schumer, Kirk, Collins, McCain and others – deserve real credit for coming together around a compromise bill that struck a fair balance, and President Obama and Vice-President Biden deserve credit for their leadership since the Sandy Hook massacre. But even with some bi-partisan support, a common-sense public safety reform died in the U.S. Senate at the hands of those who are more interested in attempting to protect their own political careers – or some false sense of ideological purity – than protecting the lives of innocent Americans. The only silver lining is that we now know who refuses to stand with the 90 percent of Americans – and in 2014, our ever-expanding coalition of supporters will work to make sure that voters don’t forget.

Bloomberg released the statement through the group he co-founded, Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Through that group and a political action committee, Bloomberg has spent millions from his multibillion dollar personal fortune to support the background check bill and other gun control legislation.

Last week, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) made his first major return to the public eye with a lengthy New York Times Magazine interview in which he addressed for the first time the lewd photo scandal that led him to resign from office and said he's considering entering the New York City mayoral election this year. Most of his rivals and other insiders greeted Weiner's arrival with skepticism, but a new poll of the race shows him with strong support.

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Over a day after explosions rocked the Boston Marathon, the identity of those behind the attack is still a mystery, but clues are starting to emerge including information about the bombs used in the blasts. At a press conference Tuesday evening, FBI investigators confirmed the marathon bombs may have been made with pressure cookers -- a design commonly associated with Al Qaeda. However, one expert on terrorist weaponry warned TPM that the use of pressure cookers may not be strong evidence linking any one group to the bombing.

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After the bombing at the Boston Marathon, a photographer captured an image of one of the runners, Susan Darmody, being comforted by her husband, Chris. TPM spoke to Chris Monday night and who spoke about their experience and Susan's determination to cross the finish line eventually in spite of the attack.

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