Obama Bemoans Gun Votes on 'Shameful Day for Washington'
An emotional President Obama accused the gun-rights lobby of spreading "lies" about the Manchin-Toomey background check amendment and other gun-control amendments that failed in the Senate this afternoon.
"Ninety percent of Americans support that idea," he said of universal background checks. "Most Americans think that's already the law. And a few minutes ago 90 percent of Democrats in the Senate voted for that idea. But it's not going to happen because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate just voted against that idea."
Obama lauded Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) "for their courage" in the deal that increased background checks but wasn't the universal extension many Democrats wanted. "That was not easy, given their traditional strong support for Second Amendment rights," the president said.
"But instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill. They claimed that it would create some sort of big brother gun registry even though the bill did the opposite," Obama said. "...And, unfortunately, this pattern of spreading untruths about this legislation served a purpose. Because those lies upset an intense minority of gun owners and that in turn intimidated a lot of senators."
He said he'd talked to senators who "come from states that are strongly pro-gun" and understood "regional differences when it comes to guns."
"But the fact is, most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn't want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun. There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn't do this. It came down to politics. The worry that that vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections. They worried that the gun lobby would spend a lot of money and paint them as anti-Second Amendment. And obviously a lot of Republicans had that fear, but Democrats had that fear, too. And so they caved to the pressure. And they started looking for an excuse, any excuse to vote no," Obama continued.
"...If action by Congress could have saved one person, one child, a few hundred, a few thousand, if it could have prevented those people from losing their lives to gun violence in the future while preserving our Second Amendment rights, we had an obligation to try. And this legislation met that test. And too many senators failed theirs."
The president then lashed out at observations that the victims and families of gun violence were being used as media props in the debate. "'Emotional blackmail,' some outlets said. Are they serious? Do we really think thousands of families whose lives have been shattered by gun violence don't have a right to weigh in on this issue? Do we think their emotions, their loss is not relevant to this debate?" Obama said.
He decried today as "a pretty shameful day for Washington."
"So to change Washington, you, the American people, are going to have to sustain some passion about this. And when necessary, you've got to send the right people to Washington. And that requires strength. And it requires persistence. And that's the one thing that these families should have inspired in all of us," Obama said. "I still don't know how they have been able to muster up the strength to do what they've been doing over the last several weeks -- the last several months. And I see this as just round one."