A visibly angry President Obama tore into Senate Republicans on Wednesday for voting down legislation to expand background checks on gun sales, accusing opponents of the measure of deliberately lying to derail its passage.
“Families that know unspeakable grief summoned the courage to petition their elected leaders not just to honor the memory of their children but to protect the lives of all of our children,” Obama said, standing alongside Vice President Biden and a handful of people whose lives had been affected by gun violence. “A few minutes ago a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn’t worth it.”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.”