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How even background checks for guns failed to pass in America

April 18th, 2013
04:19 PM ET

By Samuel Burke, CNN

Twenty U.S. schoolchildren and six teachers were murdered in a single rampage in Newtown, Connecticut last December. With nowhere to turn, the victims’ families dedicated the next months of their lives to try to change America’s gun laws.

Some started out with the hope of comprehensive of reform, including a ban on military-style assault weapons. President Obama enlisted the families’ support, but as the months went on his proposal was quickly watered down to mainly background checks.

Ninety-one percent of Americans now support universal background checks for gun purchases, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

But now, with the defeat of a bill in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, it appears that any type of gun reform is quickly fading away. The legislation didn’t pass, even though the majority of senators – 54 out of 100 – voted in favor of the legislation.

“This is really a defining moment about American democracy,” legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday. “So many factors came together to defeat this bill.” 

Toobin cited the power of states, the enduring appeal of guns in the country, and the power of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate.

The current use of the filibuster is relatively new, Toobin explained. Previously, it was only a tool used to hold off a vote until a supermajority of 60 senators voted to end debate in extraordinary circumstances.

“How the Senate has evolved in recent years – particularly since President Obama has taken office – is that essentially everything is filibustered. So it takes 60 senators to accomplish anything in the United States Senate,” Toobin said.

After the defeat, President Obama was flanked by the Newtown families and Gabrielle Giffords at the White House – Giffords is the former congresswoman who survived being shot in the head.

Obama declared the gun lobby had “willfully lied” to the American people and defended the Newton families in their fight.

“I’ve heard folks say that having the families of the victims lobby for this legislation was somehow misplaced. ‘A prop,’ somebody called it – emotional blackmail,” Obama said. “Are they serious?”

Last month, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy told Amanpour that Newtown victims’ families were clinging to the hope of gun reform.

“Many of them are able to get up in the morning because they believe that this world is going to change as a consequence of this tragedy. And I do shudder to think what I'm going to tell some of these families if we can't even get background checks passed in the United States Senate.”

Now, the senator must face those parents and tell them that it will not happen for the time being.

Filed under:  Gun Control • Latest Episode
soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. James Haughton

    This really makes me proud to be Canadian! Not quite so gun crazy here.

    April 18, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Reply
    • Jeff Quimby

      Awesome, stay there. I wish more foreigners had your same views.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:41 pm | Reply
      • James

        amen brother !

        April 20, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
      • PaulC

        Having 3 bushmasters and 2,000 rounds of ammo does not make you intelligent nor a patriot.
        Also, as an American, I would like to add that being an American does not make your intelligent nor a patriot.

        April 21, 2013 at 1:51 am |
    • Alison

      I feel exactly the same about being a New Zealander. Here gun ownership is a privilege and a hard earned one at that. what other countries do is up to them and I guess unless you are raised in that sort of environment you will never really understand it.

      April 19, 2013 at 2:22 am | Reply
    • JC the American dream without the violence!

      April 19, 2013 at 3:52 am | Reply
    • inthe12

      I lived in your country for 13 years. The quality of life there is definitely better. Apparently there are more guns per capita in Canada, but you Canadians are less likely to use them. I don't believe anything will change in the US regarding the gun ownership laws. My husband and I took our retirement 9 years ago and moved abroad. Each time there is one of these horrific tragedies, my heart breaks and dies a little bit. I know that there are no simple answers–perhaps no answers at all until the basic culture changes; and that takes a long time.

      April 19, 2013 at 8:58 am | Reply
    • 1stlttightwad

      You don't have as many you..98% of gun murders are committed by THUGS are they not in the US.

      April 19, 2013 at 10:41 am | Reply
  2. Yaro Aliko Lawal

    To my own view formally i felt U S A is the safe place to go but know is better for me to go to iraq or syria to stay because in those place you know is a war zone with that you will always be ready to defend your self

    April 18, 2013 at 4:57 pm | Reply
  3. j

    need to ban high capacity pressure cookers.. first and foremost

    April 18, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Reply
    • Joe

      Don't forget to ban food, too! People choke to death, and we should take this seriously! Wee need to bring snow to justice! We must ban the widespread use of ice. So many people drive off roads after losing traction!!!!! LOL

      April 18, 2013 at 10:26 pm | Reply
    • Jeff Quimby

      And the two thumbs up award goes to you friend

      April 18, 2013 at 11:43 pm | Reply
    • James

      yea, it those "high capacity pressure cookers" that started this mess! Someone tell Piers Morgan!

      April 20, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Reply
  4. Pedro

    It seems that the Republicans and Tea Party are still up to their old tricks of continuing trying to make President Obama look bad in office. It seems they are just going about it in another slick kind of way! I agree, since President Obama has taken office – is that essentially everything is a filibustered! How about those slick Mongoose! This Gun Bill had a 74% chance or more to past mustard. But, thanks to NRA possibly additional promises and extreme Republican/Tea Party Lobbying. Now, more of our innocents mainly more children, will get hurt or die! It's time for us to remember, The Midterm Election are coming!!!! Elected Government Officials represents the "People". Not the NRA!

    April 18, 2013 at 6:39 pm | Reply
    • victom

      Wow so your saying the leaders failure to lead has no responsibility on him? Also your side is the one that will protect there $$$, there politicians, and your pop idols with guards but not our children, shame on you the next tragedy will have blood on your hands. Americans will not stand for the Chicago politicians infringing on our rights. The NRA is a voice of the people.

      April 18, 2013 at 7:08 pm | Reply
      • Lee

        The NRA is the voice of gun manufacturers not a voice fo the people. The NRA is bought and paid for.

        April 19, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  5. normpel

    The real reason this legislation failed is

    April 18, 2013 at 6:43 pm | Reply
    • normpel

      The real reason this legislation will never pass is the power of the NRA. Politicians are deathly afraid of the NRA because they know the NRA will spend money to get them defeated if they vote in favor of any gun reforms. No single organization in the U.S. should have this much power over our legislature.

      April 18, 2013 at 6:54 pm | Reply
      • James

        Like the unions do with your messiah?

        April 18, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
      • Jeff Quimby

        you do know that "We the people fund the NRA" so all that money is coming from citizens

        April 19, 2013 at 12:01 am |
  6. Peter Davies

    Shame on you America,shame! what a pathetic effort allowing those red neck gun lobby people overrun decency and common sense. Lead by example America and you may just claw back some credibility in the world!

    April 18, 2013 at 6:57 pm | Reply
    • Don1911

      How would you feel if a group was trying to eliminate the first amendment?

      April 18, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Reply
  7. victom

    Its funny how CNN has pulled yesterdays gun story already. Last I looked this am it had over 30,000 comments in the first 16 hours. It must be that about 90% of the comments were pro gun, anti obama/cnn

    April 18, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Reply
    • the great kazoo

      of course.
      How do you expect them to maintain a liberal echo chamber if it doesn't hold a liberal bias?

      April 21, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  8. arwkoppen

    Some started out with the hope of comprehensive of reform, including a ban on military-style assault weapons. President Obama enlisted the families’ support, but as the months went on his proposal was quickly watered down to mainly background checks.
    What NRA's also want to break down.

    April 18, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Reply
    • vaw

      The bill was too watered down, especially the part allowing for the sale of guns to "friends." Any criminal can by a gun from a "friend." How was this bill going to make us safer?

      April 22, 2013 at 10:33 am | Reply
  9. gvmtwrker

    Its sad to watch our president use the victims of gun violence as his political pawns.

    April 18, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Reply
  10. billy

    Background checks are necessary – gun registration is not. That's the difference and even if background checks
    were voted in nothing would change. The nut jobs will still get weapons and continue to murder innocent people.

    April 18, 2013 at 7:17 pm | Reply
    • Skibo2000

      And by this logic we should not have laws against stealing, because criminals will still steal anyways

      April 18, 2013 at 11:50 pm | Reply
      • normal

        i don't understand your train of thought. you must be confused because stealing is arguably both illegal AND immoral. therefore, in your scenario, eliminating laws against stealing would not change the immorality of stealing.

        however, in a more comparable example, a hypothetical law requiring the registration and tracking of all uses of times new roman has been proposed in light of a small group of radicals using the font for illicit purposes. however, it has been found that there are a number of alternative ways for people bent on misusing the font to do so. by this logic, it doesn't seem to be in the interest of the citizenry to pass the law, and instead the existing legal system as well as law enforcement should be utilized appropriately to handle the relatively small number of infringements.

        April 19, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
  11. Lori M.

    I wish we had a President that wanted to unite us instead of dividing us!!!!!!!

    April 18, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Reply
    • TB

      Oh, you mean like George Bush united us??? Whatever......

      April 18, 2013 at 10:02 pm | Reply
    • Skibo2000

      Right, because he's really dividing us by backing a bill that was supported by the vast majority of Americans

      April 18, 2013 at 11:53 pm | Reply
  12. HANS


    April 18, 2013 at 7:37 pm | Reply
  13. TM Chatfield

    We in the rest of the world fail to understand America's stand on guns. Incomprehensible.

    April 18, 2013 at 7:58 pm | Reply
    • Jeff Quimby

      Just cause you let the big man infringe on your rights don't worry about ours. I'm sure whatever country your in we saved it once or twice.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:51 pm | Reply
      • Skibo2000

        Haha yeah, how dare that country take away their rights to kill each other in mass numbers!

        April 18, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
      • Jeff Quimby

        And what country are you from my friend lets I would like to review some statistics. I hear tighter gun laws are working really good in chicago.

        April 18, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
  14. Chimera

    When the Patriot Army or whatever broad group of like minded schizos start their self proclaimed revolution and dictatorship and American refugees start moving across the borders of the world, I hope one of the test questions that leads to rejection of refugee status will be "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the NRA or any other fellow traveling subversive group"

    April 18, 2013 at 8:03 pm | Reply
  15. Jeff

    So, why don't you just stick to your own business and write comments in your Canadian papers/news sites about things like your wonderful (not) health care and the fact that you have to depend upon someone else for your safety and defense and etc.

    April 18, 2013 at 8:25 pm | Reply
    • Jeff Quimby

      Yuuuuuusssss preach it!

      April 18, 2013 at 11:48 pm | Reply
  16. James

    We have the most outstanding military in the whole world but they are spread thin right now. But, because there are approximately 300 million guns in the hands of citizens of this country we can rest easy knowing that NO foreign power will ever invade one square inch of this country even if our military is 50% overseas protecting smaller countries and our allies.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:17 pm | Reply
  17. TJ

    Luntz Global is a marketing company.

    The polls are complete works of fiction.

    There are more than 313,914,040 people in the US, survey 1,000 and that represents over three hundred million? Really?

    April 18, 2013 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  18. Joe

    Lets ban guns. While we're at it, let's ban cars! It gets people around faster, making a flourishing economy, but homicidal maniacs and idiots kill themselves and others using them recklessly! Let's ban cell phones! Let's ban food, because people choke on it. Ooh, here's a good idea!!!! Let's ban ALCOHOl! Think of all the bad things THAT causes! What was that? You already tried it? Too bad... I guess the real population and not MADE UP numbers will get what they want, especially if it was taken away!

    April 18, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Reply
  19. Skibo2000

    I swear to god, if I see one more post along the lines of "Why don't we just ban cars, because they kill people too," I'm gonna kill myself. Hey, maybe I'll use a gun! It's quick, painless, and proven to work around 19,000 times a year in this country!

    April 18, 2013 at 11:45 pm | Reply
    • RSR

      I know that your statement above is a rhetorical device, but "Why don't we ban cars, knives, scissors, neckties, and all other inanimate objects that, used inappropriately by an individual person, can kill someone?" Proceed. Coronary heard disease kills around 600,000 people every year. Cancer is very close behind. As to non-disease fatalities, motor vehicle accidents claimed 33,587 lives, unintentional poisoning claimed 33,041 lives, falls 26,009 lives, and then, finally, we get to guns – 19,392 suicides and 11,078 homicides by firearm. All data from the Centers for Disease Control. If the concern is to do something for the sake of doing something, perhaps this legislative proposal made sense, but recognize it was simply window dressing. Nothing proposed in this background check legislation would have prevented Newtown, Aurora, or other mass shootings. Facts are pesky things.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:07 am | Reply
      • Elrond

        A few more facts, and this one is for the children:

        “The most common cause of death from unintentional injury for children is motor vehicle crashes; other leading causes include suffocation, drowning, poisoning, fires, and falls.”

        Accidents involving firearms don't even make the top 5. Lets ban swimming pools.

        According to the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 703 children under the age of 15 died in accidental firearms deaths between 2001 and 2010, the latest year for which the agency’s statistics on fatalities are available. During the same period, 7,766 children under the age of 14 suffered accidental firearms injuries — about one injury for every million children.

        April 19, 2013 at 2:20 am |
      • Marmotte

        Forget the comparisons and stick to the issue. Even if stricter gun control (again we are NOT talking about banning!!) would not have prevented the Newtown horror, what is WRONG with stricter gun control? unless you have something to hide...? Even if it prevents one nut getting hold of a gun, isn't that worth it?

        April 19, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • robert

      GO AHEAD, That would be an improvement in the world.

      April 19, 2013 at 6:48 am | Reply
  20. Jeff Quimby

    I LOVE DEMOCRACY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YUSSSSSSSSSSSS

    April 18, 2013 at 11:55 pm | Reply
  21. Steve

    The article is misleading. Perhaps many NRA members support background checks, but they do not support the senate bill that failed to pass yesterday. One of the problems with the bill is that there are many ways to get on the list that would deny one from purchasing or receiving a weapon, but no clear or simple way to be removed from it. I have a friend who had the same first, middle, and last names as someone who had an outstanding warrant in another state. It took him two years to get it cleared up so he could receive a weapon he had already paid for. Secondly, I admonish President Obama to clean his own house first. More people have been killed by operation Fast and Furious guns than the combined number of people who were killed at Newtown and Aurora.

    April 19, 2013 at 6:38 am | Reply
  22. Botsw

    thank God guns arent allowed in my countries,we have never experienced mass shootings

    April 19, 2013 at 7:38 am | Reply
  23. odanurr87

    Can someone explain to me how something as basic as a background check failed to pass?

    April 19, 2013 at 9:07 am | Reply
    • 1stlttightwad

      Be happy to..We have had background checks for over 20 years now..With 76,000 denied purchasing guns last year only 44..that's right 44 were prosecuted..The Current laws are NOT being enforced so any new laws proposed are only a feel good, knee jerk response by politicians with an anti gun agenda..The "new" law would have had 'you' the seller to do a background check even for selling a good friiend that you have known for 30+ years..then report the type of gun, the SERIAL NUMBER to the BATF/FBI..that is a gun registry which is AGAINST THE LAW..and then there was no provision as to how long You would have to keep said records. Secondly, there was no strengthening of provisions to stop crazies...that is in a second bill that just passed. The Holy Grail for all anti gunners has been a registry of all guns and for what ultimate purpose? History will show you what Hitler did with his gun registry..all Jews were required to turn in their guns or face prison..What happens when you disarm a poplulace that can stand in your way...Hmm, can we say they are no longer able to stop you...NO MATTER your agenda...Now you know.

      April 19, 2013 at 10:51 am | Reply
    • jharry3

      You must understand that everytime one of these "reasonable" gun control bills comes up their is always a Feinstein or Peolsi or Shumer who steps up and says "this is a good first step" with the implication being that give up this and two more "next steps" is banning, confiscation, etc. How can gun owners trust the gun banners on anything if they openly say they will confiscate as soon as they get the votes?

      April 19, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Reply
      • Brown


        April 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  24. Scare The Pilgrims

    There is nothing scarier than " facing an armed robber when you are unarmed "

    April 19, 2013 at 10:01 am | Reply
    • 1stlttightwad

      When seconds count the cops are only minutes away..I don't call 911..I AM MY OWN 911 along with my elderely neighbors..They don't call 911 either..they call me.

      April 19, 2013 at 11:01 am | Reply
  25. 1stlttightwad

    Obama always comes out and says..the republicans are going to tell you so, and so..but that is not the truth..What he really is doing is letting you know it IS the truth but don't believe them, He has done it every single time...has he not. Even the lame stream media is waking up as is anyone with a job or pays taxes..that stupidly supported him.

    April 19, 2013 at 10:55 am | Reply
  26. Jeremy

    20 little children and 6 teachers, not to mention all the people gettting killed every day by guns and we do nothing. Makes me ashamed to be an American.

    April 19, 2013 at 11:39 am | Reply
    • Brown

      Then be an involved American and push for ways to help the mentally ill!! Don't just sit there and complain! (or be ashamed) Gun control is not the answer, it is the criminals not the guns doing the killing.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Reply
      • Joel

        Help the mentally ill – that sounds good, and I hear it over and over. The problem is that most of the people saying that are tea partiers and far righties who want to cut government spending for everything but the military. The first thing they would cut is care for the mentally ill!

        April 19, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
  27. Tom Sickler

    Waiting for Washington to do somthing is not the answer. Its got to start locally. My community has an event where folks can surrender old guns to the authorities without the risk of being prosecuted for possessing a firearm without the proper credentials. We took back over 1000 guns, mostly pistols, some assault rifles and shotguns. If you want to make your environment safer I suggest you start locally (where it will effect you the most). These guns are recycled and are no longer posing a risk of accidental death, or being in the hands of a criminal. Dont wait for Washington, it will never happen, or it will have strings attached that will certainly cause more problems than they solve.

    April 19, 2013 at 11:58 am | Reply
    • normal

      you should have had the assault rifles sold to collectors, i hear they are worth upwards of $20,000.

      or did you just mean a cool-looking gun?

      April 19, 2013 at 11:00 pm | Reply
  28. jharry3

    You must understand that everytime one of these "reasonable" gun control bills comes up their is always a Feinstein or Peolsi or Shumer who steps up and says "this is a good first step" with the implication being that give up this and two more "next steps" is banning, confiscation, etc. How can gun owners trust the gun banners on anything if they openly say they will confiscate as soon as they get the votes? The only analogy to this is the left's fierce protection of abortion rights – any slight modification Roe vs Wade sends off a firestorm of coat-hanger, back alley bleeding to death visions so every proposed modification is met by a stone wall from the left. Well, I am part of the stone wall on the right who is not willing to yield because I know what the code words "a good first step" really mean and I think going there is the wrong thing to do for a free people.

    April 19, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Reply
    • Brown

      Agree 100%

      April 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Reply
  29. Brown

    The NRA is a vote for me, a legal gun owner, not for the gun manufacturers. The NRA and sane, legal gun owner are not the ones killing people–wish the left would realize that. Newtown families should be lobbying for ways to help the mentally ill, not gun control issues that would have had no effect. I share their loss, I have lost a child. It disturbs me greatly that the Obama administration is using them this way. They are looking for a way to have their loved ones remembered. Let's do it by fixing the mental health system, not taking away the gun rights of law-abiding citizens.

    April 19, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Reply
    • Joel

      Help the mentally ill – that sounds good, and I hear it over and over. The problem is that most of the people saying that are tea partiers and far righties who want to cut government spending for everything but the military. The first thing they would cut is care for the mentally ill!

      April 19, 2013 at 10:54 pm | Reply
  30. the great kazoo

    It failed because harry Reid chickened out when he saw it would fail anyway.

    They should have stuck with adding the mentally deranged to the NICS system, and tougher penalties for straw purchasers. That is what the "90%" was for.Instead, they loaded it down with proposals that did not pass the sniff test.

    If they really want to pass gun legislation they should forget about liberal demands, and focus on what gun owners would accept.

    April 21, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Reply
  31. Emeit

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    May 8, 2013 at 7:44 pm | Reply

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