WASHINGTON — One day after the demise of gun control legislation, Senate supporters of the measure vowed to try again, while a leading opponent accused President Barack Obama of taking the “low road” when he harshly criticized lawmakers who voted against key provisions.
“When good and honest people have honest differences of opinion about what policies the country should pursue about gun rights … the president of the United States should not accuse them of having no coherent arguments or of caving to the pressure,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
The fate of the bill was sealed in a string of votes on Wednesday, when Republicans backed by a small group of rural-state Democrats rejected more extensive background checks for gun purchasers and also torpedoed proposed bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
The Senate delivered its verdict four months after a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., left 20 first graders and six educators dead. The tragedy prompted Obama to champion an issue that Democrats had largely avoided for two decades, and that he himself ignored during his first term in the White House.
Though the gun control bill was moribund for the foreseeable future, the Senate approved two minor amendments on Thursday. One by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., cutting aid to state and local governments that release information on gun owners, was approved 67-30. Another by Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., bolstering federal mental health programs passed 95-2.
“This is not the end of the fight. Republicans are in an unsustainable position,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, after the vote against a tougher requirement for background checks for gun purchasers, a proposal that shows very high support in most public opinion polls.
Reid offered no timetable for renewing the drive to enact legislation that Obama has placed near the top of his domestic agenda.