WASHINGTON – Speaking with families of Newtown, Conn. beside him, after the Senate killed gun curbs yesterday, President Obama declared: “All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington.”
But the president added that it is only “Round One” of the fight.
Only an hour earlier, with the grieving families of the Newtown massacre watching in the public gallery, the U.S. Senate voted yesterday to kill each and every major bill aimed at curbing gun violence.
“Shame on you! Shame!” shouted Patricia Maisch and Lori Haas as they listened to the roll call and it became clear that a compromise background check bill co-authored by West Virginia Democrat, Joe Manchin, and Pennsylvania Republican, Patrick Toomey, had fallen 6 votes shy of the 60 vote super-majority needed to overcome a filibuster in the 100-member Senate.
The vote was 54 to 46 with four Democrats joining the Republican minority to kill the legislation.
Only 40 senators voted in favor of a ban on assault weapons like the one used to slay 20 children and six teachers and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut last Dec. 14.
Since the Newtown massacre, 3,513 people have died from gun violence across the U.S. A bill to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines died with only 46 Senators voting yes.
Haas’ daughter was a student at Virginia Tech who was shot twice in that campus massacre in 2007. Maisch was a hero of the Tucson massacre, grabbing a magazine clip from the hands of Jared Lee Loughner as he attempted to reload. He had shot to death six people and seriously wound 18 others including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). Giffords has dedicated her life to fighting for the eradication of gun violence since her recovery from a near-fatal gunshot wound to the head.
She too was in the gallery when the Senate roll call was read by Vice President Joe Biden who has spearheaded the campaign for gun control legislation.
Giffords told reporters, “I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done….We cannot allow the status quo….”
She accused the senators of kow-towing to the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby so that weapons makers “can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation.” She was referring to a falsehood spread by the NRA that the background check contained in the Manchin-Toomey bill would lead to a federal registry of gun owners which the NRA claims violates the Second Amendment.
Added Giffords, “Moments ago, the U.S. Senate decided to do the unthinkable about gun violence—nothing at all. Over two years ago when I was shot point-blank in the head, the U.S. Senate chose to do nothing. Four months ago, 20 first-graders lost their lives in a brutal attack on their school and the U.S. Senate chose to do nothing. It’s clear to me that if members of the U.S. Senate refuse to change the laws to reduce gun violence, then we need to change the members of the U.S. Senate.”
Her husband, Mark Kelly, told reporters he will work to unseat his close friend, Arizona Republican Senator, Jeff Flake, because he voted against the gun control legislation. “Friendship is one thing,” Kelly said. “Saving people’s lives, especially First Graders , is another thing.”
Speaking with the families of Newtown, Connecticut beside him, an hour or so after the vote, President Obama said, “All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington.” But Obama added that it was only “Round One” of the fight.
He accused the NRA of having “willfully lied,” whipping up fears that the Manchin-Toomey compromise would lead to a federal registry of gunowners. The bill explicitly outlawed creation of such a registry.
Four Democrats joined Republicans in voting to kill the measures. (It included Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) who supported the legislation but voted with the Republicans for procedural reasons so he can bring the bill back up for another vote).
Obama noted that “90 percent of Democrats supported the legislation but it failed because 90 percent of Republicans voted against it.” They “caved to the pressure” from the gun lobby, Obama charged. “We can do more if Congress gets its act together. 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” in the 2014 mid-term elections.
The senators callously cast their votes even as the nation was reeling from another form of senseless violence, the bombing of the Boston Marathon two days earlier. Among the dead in Boston was eight-year old, Richard Martin. An image of the child went viral on Facebook holding a placard he had handlettered with the message, “No more hurting people. Peace.”
Photo: Obama hugs Newtown families in Hartford, CT. Susan Walsh/AP