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'A pretty shameful day for Washington' - Obama angry at Senate gun vote

The father of a Sandy Hook victim also spoke about the rejected Senate measure on gun checks at the White House today.

Gabby Giffords, President Obama and the Barden family.
Gabby Giffords, President Obama and the Barden family.
Image: White House Screengrab

INSTEAD OF THE US President taking his stand at the lectern this evening to give the White House reaction to the Senate’s rejection of legislation which would expand background checks on gun sales, an unknown man faced the camera.

He introduced himself as Mark Barden.

“Just four months ago, we lost our son,” he continued. His youngest was one of 20 children killed at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown late last year. He described how James and Natalie had lost their “sweet” brother and explained the family’s “deepest grief”.

“What happened in Newtown can happen anywhere,” he continued. “In any instant. Any Dad in America can be in my shoes. No one should feel the pain…our pain…from senseless gun violence. That’s why we’re here.”

Barden was one of 12 Newtown representatives who met with senators a fortnight ago to have a conversation about gun laws. He said they shared photos and memories of loved ones and came with a hope of having a real conversation.

“Expanded background checks wouldn’t have saved our loved ones but we came to accept a compromise,” he explains.

Today, the US Senate defeated that compromise.

If passed, the measure would expand background checks on gun sales to include those bought online or at firearms shows. Currently, checks are only required for sales handled by licensed gun dealers.

“We are disappointed but not defeated,” continued Barden, as the president could be seen comforting an upset Gabby Giffords, former congress woman and victim of gun violence who also supported the bipartisan “common sense” approach.

“We return home with determination that change will happen…not today but soon,” concluded Barden.

A visibly disappointed and angry Obama then took the stand to speak “plainly and honestly” about what had just happened in the halls of government.

“A minority blocked common sense,” he said from the White House Rose Garden. “Even when these families looked on from the gallery.

“Families that know unspeakable grief summoned the courage to petition their elected leaders not just to honour the memory of their children but to protect the lives of all of our children. A few minutes ago a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn’t worth it.”

He explained that although 90 per cent of Americans supported universal gun checks so convicted felons and people with severe mental illness could not be armed, the minority defeated them because they are better organised, have greater finances and “have been at this longer”.

An enraged president accused the gun lobby of “wilfully” lying about the legislation.

He said that lawmakers had an obligation to try and save lives, prevent people and children being killed by gun violence while still protecting constitutional rights.

“This legislation met that test,” he said. “Too many senators failed theirs.”

He was scathing of Democrats who had voted against the amendments because of fear about the next election.

They caved to the pressure. And they started looking for an excuse, any excuse to vote no.

“I’ve heard some say blocking this step is a victory. For who? For what? It is the preservation of a loophole for dangerous criminals…

“All in all, a pretty shameful day for Washington.”

The president urged voters who agreed with the changes to tell their elected representatives that they did not reflect their views today. He said they needed to be as passionate, organised and vocal as those who blocked the bill today.

“I see this as round one,” he added. “When Newtown happened…I said something must be different.”

I believe we’re going to be able to get this done, sooner or later we’re going to get this right. The memories of these children demand it.

The National Rifle Association opposed the plan, describing it as an ineffective infringement on gun rights.

US Senate says ‘No’ to expanded gun checks

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