President Barack Obama, lashed out at the U.S. Congress in unusually tough term as he was very upset with the loss of a key priority after spending months fighting for it.
“There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this. It came down to politics,” the U.S. president said after the Senate had voted against expanding background checks for firearms purchases.
“All in all this was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” Obama said at a White House news conference after a jarring blow to proponents of the drive to curb firearms.
Obama described the loss as “just Round 1.” He also urged those who support the expanded background checks to be as politically active and persistent as those who opposed them.
An angry Obama, surrounded by those who and whose families suffered in the December’s mass shooting, said the powerful gun control lobby “willfully lied” to the American people.
“All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” the president concluded. “Who are we here to represent?”
Barack Obama also blamed the failed vote on Republicans who caved in to pressure from the gun lobby despite polls showing strong support of the nation for background checks for firearms purchasers.
“Ninety percent of Democrats in the Senate voted for that idea,” he said. “But it’s not going to happen because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate just voted against that idea.”
He promised not to give up to do his best to introduce new measures for gun owners and made clear he would use the issue to campaign on behalf of Democratic candidates in the 2014 midterm congressional elections.
“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,” he said.
In a poignant note, the U.S. president was introduced in the Rose Garden by Mark Barden, who lost a son, Daniel Barden, in the Sandy Hook massacre, Reuters reports.
“We will not be defeated. We are not defeated, and we will not be defeated,” said Barden.
“There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldnât do this,” said Obama. “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.”
A few hours before, on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, the scene was somber. Those same family members trickled out of the Senate, being disappointed and raged.
“I’m more aware than anyone in this entire world that background checks wouldn’t have saved my mom,” said Erica Lafferty, whose mother Dawn Hochsprung was killed in the Newtown shootings. “But background checks might make sure that another 27-year-old doesn’t have to get buried.”
Pam Simon, who survived in the Tuscon shooting, said she was disappointed with moderate Republicans such as Arizona senator Jeff Flake, who voted against the new measures but had previously voted in favour of the debate.
“We met with Jeff, who was a friend of Gabby’s,” Simon told The Guardian. “He has a poster in his office of Mr Smith Goes to Washington, and I would urge him to rewatch that movie and realise that it is his job to represent the people.”
Democratic governor Dannel Malloy echoed Simon, saying the senators should be “ashamed of themselves”, while state Republican house leader Lawrence Cafero said: “I just don’t understand how you could vote no.”