President Obama angrily blamed the defeat Wednesday of his centerpiece gun-control proposal on lies spread by the National Rifle Association, calling it “a pretty shameful day for Washington.”
“The gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill,” Mr. Obama said in the White House rose garden about 90 minutes after the vote. “It came down to politics.”
As he spoke, Mr. Obama was surrounded by family members of victims of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. Also with him was former Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona, wounded in an assassination attempt.
Senators voted 54-46 late Wednesday to expand background checks of gun purchases, six votes shy of the 60 needed for passage of the amendment.
The vote was a huge blow to the president’s efforts since the Newtown, Conn., school massacre last December to enact a broad package of new gun laws. Mr. Obama and his team had considered background checks the most likely gun restriction to be approved by Congress, with polls showing as much as 90 percent of the public in favor of the measure immediately after the Newtown shootings.
The president put the blame squarely on the NRA, which he accused of spreading falsehoods that the legislation would lead to a national gun registry.
“They claimed that it would create some sort of big-brother gun registry, even though it did the opposite,” Mr. Obama said. “This pattern of spreading untruths … served a purpose. A minority in the U.S. Senate decided it wasn’t worth it. They blocked common-sense gun reforms, even while these families looked on from the Senate gallery. It’s not going to happen because 90 percent of Republicans just voted against that idea.”
Mark Barden, father of 7-year-old Daniel who was killed in Newtown, said any father in America could be in his shoes.
“It’s a proposal that will save lives,” he said of the measure. “We’ll return home now, disappointed but not defeated. We’ve always known this will be a long road. We will keep moving forward and build public support. We will not be defeated. We are not going away.”
Mr. Obama vowed not to give up on seeking more gun restrictions.
“You’ve got to send the right people to Washington,” he told voters. “That requires strength and it requires persistence. I see this as just Round One. Sooner or later, we are going to get this right. The memories of these children demand it.”