WHITE HOUSE — After the U.S. Senate Wednesday defeated a bill to require gun buyers to pass expanded background checks, President Barack Obama angrily blamed a minority of senators and gun owners groups for the setback. Both the president and the families of shooting victims vowed to continue fighting.
In a highly unusual move, President Obama allowed someone outside his administration to begin his statement in the Rose Garden.
Mark Barden lost his seven-year-old son Daniel four months ago, in a mass shooting at a school in Connecticut. The president briefly put his hand on Barden’s shoulder as he spoke.
“We will not be defeated. We are not defeated, and we will not be defeated. We are here now. We will always be here, because we have no other choice. We are not going away,” Barden said.
When Obama took the podium, the president, who is known for his cool demeanor, lashed out. He accused both Republicans and Democrats who voted against the bill of political cowardice.
“There were no coherent arguments as to why we would not do this. It came down to politics-the worry that that vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections,” the president said.
The president went on to blame the National Rifle Association and other gun owners groups of distorting the provisions of the legislation.
“But instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill,” Obama said.
Afterward, an NRA statement said the bill “would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms…requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right”.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who voted against the bill, said expanded background checks would not have prevented the Connecticut shootings.
The legislation was a bipartisan compromise, intended to keep guns out of the hands of convicted criminals and the mentally ill.
Fifty-four of the 100 senators voted for the initiative, but it fell short of the 60 votes needed for passage.
Obama said he sees the defeat of the bill as just “round one” in the battle for tighter gun control.
“I believe we are going to be able to get this done. Sooner or later, we are going to get this right. The memories of these children demand it, and so do the American people,” Obama said.
Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot while meeting with her constituents in Arizona in 2011, stood next to the president as he spoke. Before the event, she sent messages on social media, saying the Senate ignored the will of the people.