A compromise amendment expanding background checks crafted by Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Pat Toomey was DOA before the Senate cast its first vote Wednesday, despite high hopes among lawmakers and gun control advocates.
"Shame on you!" two victims of gun violence cried from the Senate gallery when the measure fell short of the 60 votes needed for passage. Their sentiment was echoed by President Obama in remarks delivered later from the White House Rose Garden.
"A few months ago, in response to too many tragedies, including the shootings of a United States congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, who's here today, and the murder of 20 innocent school children and their teachers, this country took up the cause of protecting more of our people from gun violence," said a visibly frustrated Obama. "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. A few minutes ago, a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn't worth it."
In addition to Giffords, who is still recovering from injuries sustained in the Tuscon shooting, the president was joined by Vice President Joe Biden, Sandy Hook families and other victims of gun violence.
Earlier in the day, Manchin predicted that there were not enough votes for the measure, which extended background checks to purchases made at gun sales and online, but also would have exempted private sales between relatives and close friends. The NRA argued that the measure "criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens."
The final 54 to 46 tally included four Republican yays and five Democratic nays. Several other measures failed to pass.
Obama warned that it was "a pretty shameful day for Washington, but this effort is not over" and pledged that his administration would do what it can to promote gun safety with or without Congress. The president also accused lawmakers who did not support "common sense" gun legislation of forgetting who they came to Washington to represent and warned that they are outnumbered by the 90 percent of Americans who do.
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 that if they don't act this time, you will remember come election time," Obama said.
The president also urged Americans to not let their passion on the issue falter and to continue being persistent.
"I'm assuming our expressions of grief and our commitment to do something different to prevent these things from happening are not empty words," Obama said. "I believe we're going to be able to get this one. Sooner or later we are going to get this right. The memories of these children demand it, and so the American people."
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(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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