The United States Senate failed to pass a bipartisan bill calling for stricter background checks on gun sales, a measure that is seen as a key component of legislation in the debate for stronger gun control laws in general.
By a vote of 54-46, opponents of the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act managed to block the measure; falling six votes short of the required 60 votes. The proposal, crafted by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Joe Manchin (D-W.VA) would have expanded background checks for firearm sales to include gun shows and the Internet. Supporters of the bill saw it as a major step forward, particularly because it was a bipartisan measure. Toomey said that although the vote didn’t go as he had hoped, he would be moving on to other equally important issues.
“I did what I thought was the right thing for our country. I sought out a compromise position that I thought could move the ball forward on an important matter of public safety,” Toomey said. “My only regret is that our amendment did not pass. It’s not the outcome I hoped for, but the Senate has spoken on the subject, and it’s time to move on. We have a lot of other very important issues to deal with such as getting the economy back on track, dealing with the debt ceiling and creating more jobs for Pennsylvanians.”
But other Pennsylvanians were incensed that the Senate failed to pass the measure. District Attorney Seth Williams said he was disgusted with the outcome.
“This was something that clearly the American people wanted, and the Senate failed to do the will of the people. It’s embarrassing and disgraceful and almost criminal that the United States Senate would fail to pass legislation that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill and those who commit acts of domestic violence. That’s common sense and what we should be doing. Basically forty senators succumbed to an extreme fringe of the American population. If we can’t agree to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, what can we agree on?”
Law enforcement officials say that guns, specifically illegal guns in the hands of criminals, fuels most of the deadly violence in Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago and other major cities.
“The Senate’s failure to act on this, in my opinion is an act of supreme cowardice,” said former Court of Common Pleas Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes. “In America you have to have a license to drive; when you’re born you get a Social Security number. Although this bill did not require gun owners to register would it have been so bad if it did? The people who voted to block this have no respect for their constituents and I think all of them who voted against it will be voted out of office in the next election. You have to ask yourself what or who are they afraid of? The people of the United States wanted this.”
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said he has virtually no remaining confidence in the Senate or in Congress as a result of the vote.
“They passed nothing and I think it’s absolutely pitiful. There’s just no other way to put it. The bill didn’t even call for universal background checks and they still refused to pass it. They even turned down a measure calling for stronger sentencing for straw purchasers. This makes no sense at all,” Ramsey said. “The bill that came to the floor was a watered-down version and we thought it had a good chance of passing. Congress has become useless and this is just embarassing. I think they’re just in their own little worlds and don’t give a damn. We lose 30 to 35 people every day to gun gun violence across the country but if the slaughter of babies didn’t move them into action, nothing will. This is beyond shameful.”
Democratic Senator Bob Casey, a strong proponent of Second Amendment rights, and who has received a B plus rating by the National Rifle Association, also expressed his disappointment in the way the Senate voted.
“I was very disappointed that the Senate today chose to reject sensible gun legislation to keep our children and communities safe from violent criminals and terrorists,” Casey said, “Like many Americans, after Sandy Hook, I was horrified by how those children died – shot at close range with a high-powered rifle with each child hit as many as 11 times. I was also haunted by what could have happened if the killer had more time – he was prepared to slaughter hundreds of children. As members of the U.S Senate, we must ask: have I done enough to reduce the likelihood that this never happens again? We must do more to protect our kids. I am a strong defender of the Second Amendment. Pennsylvania has a rich tradition of hunting and I believe strongly that people should be able have guns for protection, sporting and collection. But, I also believe we need sensible gun legislation that will help to prevent these tragedies. This should not be the end of the road. We owe it to our children to redouble our efforts to do everything in our power to prevent another tragedy.”
The National Rifle Association released a statement saying that the Manchin-Toomey-Schumer proposal would have criminalized honest citizens.
“The misguided Manchin-Toomey-Schumer proposal failed in the U.S. Senate. This amendment would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution,” the statement said. “As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools. The NRA will continue to work with Republicans and Democrats who are committed to protecting our children in schools, prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law, and fixing our broken mental health system. We are grateful for the hard work and leadership of those Senators who chose to pursue meaningful solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems.”