President Barack Obama said “the gun lobby and its allies” used lies and distortion to thwart legislation in the U.S. Senate that would have expanded background checks for firearms purchases.
Obama placed the blame on Republicans and lobbyists for gun manufacturers for rejecting the measure in defiance of the will of a majority of the public. He vowed to press on to get gun legislation passed.
“I see this as just Round 1,” Obama said in remarks from the White House Rose Garden. He told voters to “sustain some passion about this.”
Obama spoke about 90 minutes after backers fell short of 60 votes needed to adopt the measure, an amendment crafted by Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, and Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican.
The proposal was intended to be a bipartisan compromise and its failure marks a defeat for the president, who made heightened restrictions on guns and ammunition a priority following the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting last December.
“The gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill,” Obama said. Today “was a pretty shameful day for Washington.”
Obama was joined at the White House by families of the victims in the Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school shooting and former Representative Gabriel Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011 in her home state of Arizona.
Obama was introduced by Mark Barden, whose son, Daniel, was among the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
“We always knew this would be a long road and there’s no turning back,” Barden said. “We will not be defeated.”
Obama’s push to expand background checks, renew a federal assault weapons ban and limit ammunition magazines faced opposition from the National Rifle Association, the nation’s biggest lobby for gun owners and manufacturers.
Obama made an appeal for vocal public support, telling Americans in multiple speeches that Congress won’t act without pressure from voters. The president stepped up his own engagement on the issue in recent weeks.
Obama brought a dozen family members of Newtown victims back to Washington with him on Air Force One on April 8 following a speech in Hartford, Connecticut. The flight gave those advocates publicity ahead of a lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill. Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama also campaigned for expanded gun control measures.