(The Root) — In a major defeat for supporters of tougher gun laws, the Senate voted today to reject a bipartisan proposal by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to expand background checks on firearms sales. The final vote was 54 in favor to 46 opposed. Two Republicans joined most Democrats in supporting the legislation.
After the vote, President Barack Obama, joined by Vice President Joe Biden and former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, as well as parents and siblings of those killed in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, spoke to reporters. The president's remarks were some of the harshest we've heard from him on this topic, or any other.
"The gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill."
"We had an obligation to try … Too many senators failed theirs."
"There are no coherent arguments for why we didn't do this."
"All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets criminals buy dangerous gun without a background check. That doesn't make our kids safer."
"Who are we here to represent?"
"Are they [those who say families of victims of gun violence] serious? Do we really think that thousands of families whose lives have been shattered by gun violence don't have a right to weigh in on this issue?
"All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington."
Obama also talked political strategy, putting some of the responsibility on Americans who support gun-safety measures to take on the National Rifle Association — which has claimed that an expanded background-check system would be the first step toward a national gun registry, and therefore a violation of the constitutional right to bear arms.
"They're better organized, they're better financed, they've stayed at it longer," he said. "The American people are going to have to sustain some passion about this. I believe we're going to be able to get this done. Sooner or later, we're going to get this right."