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Senate Defeats Gun Control Plan, Obama Fumes

Senate defeats a plan to expand background checks on firearms sales and a proposal to ban some weapons.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 4/18/2013, 3:15 AM

Gun (illustrative)
Gun (illustrative)
Flash 90

In a major defeat for supporters of tougher gun laws, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday defeated a compromise plan to expand background checks on firearms sales as well as a proposal to ban some semi-automatic weapons modeled after military assault weapons.

The votes were on a series of amendments to a broad package of gun laws pushed by President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in the aftermath of the Newtown school massacre in December, CNN reported.

However, the report said, fierce opposition by the powerful National Rifle Association led a backlash by conservative Republicans and some Democrats from pro-gun states that doomed some of the major proposals in the gun package.

Due to early opposition to the background check provision, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania worked out a compromise that was less expansive than what Obama wanted but still gained the president's support.

The Manchin-Toomey plan would have expanded background checks to buyers at gun shows and all Internet sales.

Due to procedural steps by Republican opponents, the amendment required 60 votes to pass in the 100-member chamber, meaning Democrats and their independent allies who hold 55 seats needed support from some GOP senators to push them through.

The final vote was 54 in favor to 46 opposed with four Republicans joining most Democrats in supporting the compromise, according to CNN. With the outcome obvious, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, cast a "no" vote to secure the ability to bring the measure up again.

Following the vote, a defiant and angry Obama said the defeat of gun reforms was "shameful," accused senators of caving to the gun lobby, and promised to fight on.

Obama, in unusually direct language, and surrounded by relatives of gun victims including some of the 20 children gunned down in the Newtown massacre, accused the firearms lobby of lying to doom reforms.

"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," Obama said, according to AFP.

"A few minutes ago a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn't worth it," he added.

"Instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill," said Obama, who was clearly furious about the vote, months after vowing to use all his power to enact gun reform.

Obama said that Republicans and some Democrats had fallen prey to politics and had simply been scared that the wealthy gun lobby would come after them in future elections.

"They caved to the pressure. And they started looking for an excuse, any excuse to vote no."

The president however vowed to carry on fighting for reform.

"I see this as just round one," he said. "I'm assuming our expressions of grief and our commitment to do something different to prevent these things from happening are not empty words.

"I believe we're going to be able to get this done, sooner or later we're going to get this right. The memories of these children demand it."

Three months ago, Obama demanded an assault weapons ban and universal background checks for gun buyers, as he laid out the most sweeping gun control legislation in decades.

The state of New York has passed what supporters called the toughest gun ownership law in the country, becoming the first U.S. state to impose new restrictions.

Lawmakers in the lower house of the State Assembly voted 104-43 in favor of the measure, which includes a full ban on sales of military-style rifles.