Joined by relatives of the victims of gun violence, President Barack Obama on Wednesday angrily blamed politics for the failure of gun control legislation and urged voters to send a message at the ballot box that they want stronger gun laws.
"There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn't do this. It came down to politics," Obama said, flanked by relatives of the victims of recent mass shootings, some of whom wept during the president's comments."All in all this was a pretty shameful day for Washington but this effort is not over," he said.
A Senate vote earlier Wednesday killed a compromise reached as lawmakers tried to salvage gun control legislation proposed as a response to the Newtown school massacre.
The amendment fell 54-46, just four votes short of the 60 necessary to overturn a Republican filibuster. Though hailed last week as a bipartisan agreement, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who helped craft the proposal, told NBC News Wednesday that "we will not get the votes today'' on expanded background checks for gun purchases – the keystone of the bill now before Congress.
In a Senate floor speech today, Manchin said there was a lot of "hogwash and lies" about his proposal for expanded background checks on gun purchases. He said more effective checks on gun purchases will make everyone safer.
"If you want to honor the most courageous family members I have ever met in my life, please consider you should vote for this bill," he said to his colleagues, just minutes before the vote.
Earlier Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal had signaled the bill was headed for this outcome.
"We still have a gap to close. Sixty votes is a very formidable and daunting threshold,'' said Blumenthal. "We are continuing on a full court press. I am corralling my colleagues where I go. We are focusing on 3 to 5 senate votes."
While the background checks amendment had the the support of most Democrats, few Republicans supported the legislation. Recent polls suggest that Americans support expanded checks on gun purchases by as much as a 90 percent margin.
Murphy said he had not given up yet. "If we don't get this done it says something pretty horrible about the state of American democracy."
"The Newtown families are down here again. They are holding meetings again as we speak,'' Murphy said. "We are still trying to figure out if there is anything in the bill we can change" to win additional support.
Murphy said the Senate would take up a list of amendments to the gun control legislation today. The result will show whether the Senate will act in response to Newtown, he said.
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader of the U.S. Senate, began Wednesday with a final plea for support for tighter controls on weapons, including a renewed ban on assault weapons and a limit on the size of ammunition magazines. He blasted opponents on the far right for what he called the "imagined tyranny" of government.
"There should be limits, significant limits on what they are allowed to own. The right to own a gun to protect your home and family,'' Reid said. "I will continue to defend that right as long as I am serving the people of Nevada. You do not need an assault weapon to defend your property."
"We don't need the ability to arm ourselves against the army or the police."
Last week a coalition of Newtown families made a series of dramatic appearances on Capitol Hill trying to convince senators to support Manchin's gun check compromise. On Tuesday, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, injured in a gun attack two years ago, made a similar appeal.
In an online ad today, the National Rifle Association said that President Obama's push for a new gun law is wrong. "Seventy-one percent of the police say Obama's gun ban will have zero effect on violent crime. Eighty percent of police say more background checks will have no effect. Ninety-one percent say the right answer is swift prosecution and mandatory sentencing. Tell your senator to listen to America's police instead of listening to Obama.''