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Obama: Senate gun control vote a 'shameful day for Washington'

By Nedra Pickler

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 04:57 p.m. HST, Apr 17, 2013

WASHINGTON >> A visibly infuriated President Barack Obama surrounded himself with tearful parents of Connecticut school shooting victims today and declared it a "pretty shameful day for Washington" after the Senate rejected a measure designed to make it tougher for criminals to get their hands on guns.

The Senate, which is controlled by the president's own party, handed him a stinging first defeat for his second term by voting down a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks for gun buyers. The disappointment was all over the faces of Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, their mouths turned into deep frowns as they appeared in the Rose Garden shortly after the vote.

"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 illness to buy a gun," Obama said. "There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn't do this."

Obama vowed that the vote would not end his fight for stricter gun laws and was "just round one." But it's unclear where the White House and its allies on guns can go from here, after the Senate sunk their best hope.

With five Democrats voting along with 41 Republicans against the measure, Obama didn't spare his own party the blame. He said opponents made a political calculation that the gun lobby and a vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in the next election.

"Obviously a lot of Republicans had that fear, but Democrats had that fear, too," Obama said. "And so they caved to the pressure and started looking for an excuse, any excuse, to vote no."

The pointed accusations were a marked departure from Obama's "no drama" style. He's shown a lot of passion on the gun issue, even publicly shedding tears, but his emotion was previously appeared more rooted in sadness than anger.

He made persistent calls over the past few months for senators simply to allow a vote to honor the 26 victims from Sandy Hook Elementary School and those killed in other mass shootings. After that vote, he appeared before cameras flanked relatives of five children killed at Sandy Hook along with former Rep. Gabby Giffords, shot in the head two years ago while meeting with her Arizona constituents.

Mark Barden, whose lost his 7-year-old son, Daniel, introduced the president and said the families would return home "disappointed but not defeated," with determination that change will come.

"Our hearts are broken. Our spirit is not," Barden said, as Obama put his hand on his shoulder. Throughout the appearance, some of the parents cried and were embraced by Biden, Obama's point man on the issue.

Obama said of the families: "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."

A senior Obama adviser, speaking on a condition of anonymity to discuss strategy for the issue, said the White House always knew that strengthening gun laws would be difficult and probably have less than a 50-50 chance of passing. But the president was deeply moved by the Sandy Hook shooting Dec. 14 and thought it was worth the effort since it hadn't been tried in over a decade, the adviser said.

The White House strategy was to move quickly, with Obama announcing his proposals just a month after Sandy Hook; have Biden stay on top of the issue with frequent appearances to key constituencies; and use the president to lift the debate up nationally at key moments by appearing with a broad range of groups including law enforcement, western voters and the victims' families. Obama purposefully stayed out of the bill's drafting in a recognition that he wasn't going to help by trying to insert himself in the legislative process.

The adviser said they never believed that senators would act because Obama asked them to, but the question was whether public outrage over Sandy Hook would be enough to move them. So Obama put the families out in front — appearing with them to give impassioned speeches, calling them out in an emotional conclusion to his State of the Union address, ferrying them aboard Air Force One to Washington for a lobbying campaign and turning over his weekly radio address to a grieving mother.

The frequent appearances led Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to accuse Obama of using them "as props, and politicizing people's tragedy."

Obama lambasted the suggestion. "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? So all in all this was a pretty shameful day for Washington."

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1local wrote:
today was a victory for the 'Legal' citizens of the USA. Why should only the illegals have firearms...Who is Obama looking out for anyway...
on April 17,2013 | 12:37PM
copperwire9 wrote:
Today was a victory for crazy people who are interested in gunning down children, and for the NRA.
on April 17,2013 | 12:55PM
Anonymous wrote:
the bad guys do not go in and get permits and back ground checks. until you can take away the illegal guns nothing will change
on April 17,2013 | 01:25PM
SteveToo wrote:
What a B o z o. The last guy to "gun down children" did not go into a gun store and buy the weapons. He stole them from his mother who bought the legally.
on April 17,2013 | 02:44PM
sluggah wrote:
Bring back the loony bins. You can thank the ACLU for emptying them.
on April 17,2013 | 07:00PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Shouldn't Barry worry more about those 600 extra nuclear centrifuges in Iran?
on April 17,2013 | 01:31PM
SteveToo wrote:
The PEOPLE have spoken Mr. Obama. Go do something about N. Korea and leave my guns alone.
on April 17,2013 | 02:43PM
noheawilli wrote:
How dare those senators stand up for our 2nd amendment rights! Yea bravo you sure told them now go deal with NK.
on April 17,2013 | 03:41PM
nj24 wrote:
So the 5 Democrats voted against it. I wonder if they were voted that way because the constituents wanted them to vote against it. They suppose to represent their district not march to President Obama's wishes.
on April 17,2013 | 03:56PM
Oahuan2 wrote:
Obama, as usual, is looking out for himself. Making it tougher for the bad guys to get guns would not have saved the children at Sandy Hook. They guy who did that was CRAZY and killed his own mother and took her guns. Mr. Obama wants to INFRINGE on our 2nd amendment rights so that when he or some other nut job president wants to declare Marshall law on the USA we will not be able to defend ourselves. Imposing more restriction on law abiding citizens to purchase guns is a foot on the path to confiscating our firearms. It is his theatrics, trotting out victims of gun violrence, that is shameful.
on April 17,2013 | 05:30PM
sluggah wrote:
Shameful like of covering up the killing of an American ambassador and others in Libya or shameful like deceiving the American public about the costs of an unweildly government bureaucracy to control health care or shameful like having an idiot as Vice president? He has to be the most dishonest, deceitful person ever to inhabit the oval office since Nixon.
on April 17,2013 | 06:52PM
kuroiwaj wrote:
The "I am the Commander-in-Chief" has failed.
on April 17,2013 | 07:16PM
sluggah wrote:
I guess the SA didn't like that I said O is the most dishonest, deceitful person to inhabit the oval office since Nixon. Let me see, was Benghazi shameful? How about hijacking the nation's health care and turning into a bonanza for the government and jacking up our costs? The list goes on and on and it will be added to.
on April 17,2013 | 07:20PM
entrkn wrote:
Voters will remember this in 2014 and 2016.
on April 17,2013 | 08:17PM
Paulh808 wrote:
Why do you think the Dems bailed!
on April 17,2013 | 10:13PM
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