“Shame on you!” That was the verdict shouted from the gallery as the Senate voted down the gun-control amendment introduced by Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), which would have extended federal background checks to cover both gun shows and Internet arms sales. The heckler was Patricia Maisch – a hero of the 2011 Tuscon shooting, who knocked a clip out of Jared Loughner’s hands, helping to end that rampage.
The victims of Tuscon and Aurora and Newtown were betrayed today. Despite having the backing of 90 percent of Americans, the push to prevent felons, cartels and the mentally ill from easily buying guns in this country was foiled by the National Rifle Association and its allies in the Senate. Because of the filibuster, the Manchin-Toomey amendment needed a supermajority of 60 votes. It fell five short. “We are carrying the vote,” the NRA tweeted triumphantly as the Senate clerk called roll. (The final count was 54 in favor, 46 opposed, as Senate majority leader Harry Reid switched his vote to “nay” for procedural reasons.)
It was a dark day for gun control advocates. Just four months after Sandy Hook, the Senate actually mustered more votes to expand gun rights than to restrict them. Fully 57 senators voted in favor of a competing amendment today that would have allowed concealed-carry permit holders to pack heat across state lines – mandating that a permit issued in rural North Dakota be honored in inner-city Newark. The amendment to ban high capacity magazines received just 46 votes. California Senator Dianne Feinstein’s push to renew the assault weapons ban garnered a paltry 40 votes.
Appearing with parents of the Newtown victims in the Rose Garden, a visibly furious President Obama decried this as a “shameful day for Washington.” He blasted not only the “90 percent of Republicans in the Senate” who had voted againt Manchin-Toomey, but also the members of his own party who had “caved to the pressure” of the gun lobby and had “started looking for an excuse – any excuse – to vote ‘no.'”
Despite the staggering legislative defeat, the president nonetheless called on Americans to keep up the pressure for change. “I believe we’re going to be able to get this done,” he said, invoking the six-year-old victims of Newtown. “Sooner or later, we are going to get this right. The memories of these children demand it.”