'Shameful day' as US gun control bill fails

President Barack Obama says ‘‘the gun lobby and its allies’’ used lies and distortion to thwart legislation in the US Senate that would have expanded background checks for firearms purchases.

Senators voted 54-46, with 60 needed to adopt the measure, as a handful of Democrats joined most Republicans in opposition. The vote was the most significant on gun control in 20 years and countered 90 per cent public support of mandatory background checks.

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'A shameful day for Washington'

Relatives of shooting victims break down as US President Barack Obama berates US lawmakers, after the Senate voted against tougher gun laws.

Mr 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 one,’’ Mr Obama said in remarks from the White House Rose Garden. He told voters to ‘‘sustain some passion about this’’.

Newtown families

Mr 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 Democrat, and Pat Toomey, a 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 wilfully lied about the bill,’’ Mr Obama said. Today ‘‘was a pretty shameful day for Washington’’.

Mr Obama was joined at the White House by families of the Newtown victims and former Representative Gabriel Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011 in her home state of Arizona.

Mr 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,’’ Mr Barden said. ‘‘We will not be defeated.’’

Mr 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.

The gun lobby and its allies wilfully lied about the bill.

Barack Obama

"Anyone who thinks this is going away is sorely mistaken," said Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat who accompanied Newtown victims' relatives to Washington last week. "If we don't change the laws, there's going to be another shooting," he said. "Maybe then people will wake up."

Mr Obama had appealed for vocal public support, telling Americans in numerous speeches that Congress would not act without pressure from voters. The President stepped up his engagement on the issue in recent weeks.

The debate over gun control was reignited by the Newtown shootings. Mr Obama proposed a gun-safety agenda weeks later, including a ban on assault weapons and size limits on ammunition magazines.

NRA Opposition

Those proposals were removed from the Senate bill amid National Rifle Association opposition. The nation's largest gun lobby, which claims four million members, said expanded background checks wouldn't stop further killings and could lead to a national gun registry. Federal law bars such a registry, and licensed gun dealers have kept sales records since 1968.

"Shame on you!" Patricia Maisch of Tucson, Arizona, shouted from the visitors' gallery after the Senate vote result was announced. Ms Maisch had helped overpower the gunman when Ms Giffords was shot.

Five Democrats voted against the background-check measure; four Republicans supported it, including Senator John McCain.