A visibly angry President Obama, reacting to the defeat of an exceedingly modest gun control measure, called it “a pretty shameful day for Washington” when the wishes of 90 percent of the American people can’t be translated into Senate action.
The president spoke with more emotion and for a more sustained period of time than he has publicly on any issue, castigating the minority of senators who blocked the measure and saying he wanted to talk “plainly and honestly about what’s happened here.”
Standing in the Rose Garden on Wednesday with the parents of Sandy Hook children who lost their lives and former Rep. Gabby Giffords, Obama made no attempt to hide his outrage at the Republican-led filibuster that killed the bill “even as these families looked on from the Senate gallery.” A handful of Democrats stood with the GOP as 90 percent of Democrats supported the measure, “but it’s not going to happen because 90 percent of Republicans voted against it,” Obama said.
The battle lines are drawn on the gun issue. It is now officially a wedge issue that Democrats will campaign on in an effort to capitalize on public support for what Obama calls common sense gun measures. And while the failure to get 60 votes in the Senate to overcome the filibuster is a defeat for Obama, he was not going to go down without a fight. “I see this as just Round 1,” he said.
Obama said he talked to a number of senators—“they’re all good people,” he added parenthetically—but that most couldn’t offer any good reason why background checks shouldn’t be strengthened, “no coherent argument, it came down to politics.” Some claimed the measure wouldn’t stop anything, but if action by Congress could have saved one child, “We had an obligation to try, and this legislation met that test, and too many senators failed theirs,” Obama said.
He assailed the NRA and the gun lobby, saying they “willfully lied” in claiming the bill would create a Big Brother registry when it did the opposite, making such data-keeping a felony. “All that happened today is the preservation of a loophole,” Obama said, his disgust with the process evident. Guns can still be bought at gun shows and over the Internet without a background check.
Recounting charges from the gun lobby that the Newtown families were being used as a prop and for emotional blackmail, Obama asked incredulously, “Are they serious?” He sounded indignant that anyone would question the right of families torn apart by gun violence to petition their elected representatives.
Mark Barden, whose 7-year-old son Daniel died at Sandy Hook, said that while the vote was disappointing, “We are not defeated, and we will not be defeated.” He introduced the president in the Rose Garden and before turning the podium over to Obama, he recited the Sandy Hook Promise: “Our hearts are broken, our spirit is not.”