WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) – Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) says she is “furious” over the Senate’s rejection of expanded background checks and other gun control restrictions.
In a New York Times op-ed published Wednesday, Giffords slammed senators who “gave into fear” and ”blocked common-sense legislation” that she said “could prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count.”
Lawmakers rejected broader federal background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines Wednesday, jarring gun control backers who thought Newtown would spur Congress to act.
“Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago,” Giffords wrote. “These senators have heard from their constituents — who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg also ripped into the Senate Thursday, calling the bill’s defeat “a disgrace.”
“The world isn’t perfect, you’re either in favor of continuing the killing and the tragedies or you’re not,” Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg said “children lost” because of Wednesday’s vote and added: “They’re going to die.”
Bloomberg, who is co-chair of the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said that when senators come up for re-election in 2014, he’ll support those who “do the right thing.”
“This just is over the top. When 80 or 90 percent of the people want to do something, when the issue is simply ‘do you continue murder or not?’” Bloomberg said.
“How are they going to, a year from November when they’re running for election, answer ‘why didn’t you do something to stop that, Senator? You had it in your power to do it and you voted to keep the killing going,’” added the mayor.
President Barack Obama blamed lawmakers’ fear that “the gun lobby would spend a lot of money” and accuse them of opposing the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.
But opponents of the restrictions, which would have been the most meaningful gun curbs approved by Congress in two decades, said the curbs were defeated because they wouldn’t have worked.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said most proposals were “predicated on one assumption that somehow we think that the criminal element will single out this one law to comply with.”
Added Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., of the expanded background check plan, “This is the first step in the erosion of my rights under the Second Amendment.”
The day was not a complete victory for the NRA. Senators defeated one GOP amendment requiring states that let people carry concealed weapons to honor other states’ concealed carry permits. Also rejected was a Republican proposal letting some veterans with mental problems have firearms unless a court blocks them from getting the weapons.
But when the votes were over, it was gun control advocates who seemed most perplexed about what it would take to succeed. Though an AP-GfK poll shows support for stricter gun laws receding a bit, surveys have also shown 8 in 10 or more people backing expanded background checks.
“There’s never been a bigger disconnect between where the American public is on an issue and where the Senate ended up,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
“Tragically, it may take more mass killings,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
But Blumenthal said gun control proponents are not giving up on enacting reforms.
“We are strategizing right now how best to shift the few votes that we need – it’s only a handful of votes and we thought we had them yesterday morning – so that we can make our streets and neighborhoods safer and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” Blumenthal told WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau.
He noted that lawmakers serve at the will of the people.
“The special interests like the NRA have a stranglehold over this process and we need to make sure that the majority has its needs and will responded to,” Blumenthal told Schneidau.
The senior senator from Connecticut added he believes some of the opponents of the measure will be held accountable by voters in the next election.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who helped craft the bipartisan plan widening background checks, said he would continue talking to other senators to see whether there were changes he could make that would attract their votes. But he conceded he had no answer.
“If I knew, we wouldn’t be talking because it would have passed,” he told a reporter.
No. 2 Senate leader Richard Durbin, D-Ill., was among several Democrats who joined Obama in saying Wednesday’s roll calls left them with an issue to take to voters.
“We’re now in the world of Gabby Giffords and Mayor Bloomberg and organizations that are organized to come out and support those who vote for gun safety and oppose those who don’t,” he said.
But Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., expressed doubts.
“If it were a real effective political strategy, you wouldn’t have seen a lot of Democrats from Southern states voting with Republicans today,” he said. Some Western Democrats voted against restrictions as well.
NRA lobbyist Chris W. Cox thanked lawmakers for defeating the “misguided” background check expansion, saying it would have criminalized gun transactions between friends – a charge Obama and others called untrue.
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