Speaking on the House floor Wednesday, Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth encouraged the Senate to pass legislation creating stricter background checks before purchasing a gun.
Yarmuth cited a constituent’s letter in The Courier-Journal that criticized lawmakers for being beholden to the National Rifle Association over common sense gun laws. Poll numbers did indicate a large number of Americans backed tighter gun restrictions, but as NPR reported last month those figures began to wane to pre-Newtown levels in recent weeks.
But Yarmuth says the Senate needs to listen to the “vast majority” of Americans and Kentuckians and pass background checks for gun purchasers.
Prospects of the bill passing appear bleak, however.
The sponsors acknowledged there aren’t enough votes necessary to pass the measure.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell appeared unwilling to back any new gun control laws, including background checks.
“In my view, we should focus on keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals and those with mental issues that could cause them to be a threat to society,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “The government should not punish or harass law-abiding citizens in the exercise of their Second Amendment rights, and it’s that focus on protecting communities and preserving our constituents’ constitutional rights that will be my guide as we begin to vote on amendments to this bill.”
A recent Public Policy Polling survey showed Kentucky voters are evenly divided over gun control. The poll found 46 percent of Kentuckians are for and against further regulations.
UPDATE: The U.S. Senate rejected the Manchin-Toomey compromise on background checks 54-to-46, which fell short of the 60-votes needed.
In Kentucky, both Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul voted against the measure, which was heavily opposed by the NRA. Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana voted for the bill.
UPDATE II: Joined by the family members of the victims from the Newtown elementary school massacre, President Obama delivered a fiery response at the White House Rose Garden that tore into Congress and the gun lobby.
The president called the vote a “shameful day for Washington” adding the gun rights groups such as the NRA “willfully lied” about some of the measure’s content.
“This legislation, in fact, outlawed any registry. Plain and simple, right there in the text. But that didn’t matter,” he said “And unfortunately, this pattern of spreading untruths about this legislation served a purpose, because those lies upset an intense minority of gun owners, and that in turn intimidated a lot of senators.”
Citing poll numbers that showed over 80 percent of Kentuckians favored background checks, hun control advocates took their criticism further and specifically pointed to McConnell’s 60-vote filibuster as the culprit.
“Who’s celebrating Mitch McConnell’s obstruction today? The big gun makers that want to keep up business as usual putting as many guns in as many hands as possible, background checks be damned. Criminals, terrorists and the dangerously mentally ill are breathing a sigh of relief that they can go right on exploiting the gun show and internet loophole.
Backed by 82% of Kentuckians, this legislation was the very least and most uncontroversial thing Sen. McConnell could have gotten behind to help prevent future gun violence and tragedies like Newtown. Instead McConnell voted to keep the door wide open for criminals to get guns any time over the internet, no questions asked. Now the only question is: how does Mitch McConnell sleep at night?”
The GOP leader’s re-election campaign didn’t back down, however.
In a fundraising e-mail sent only a few hours after the vote, McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton said the senator cherishes the Second Amendment and praised his efforts.
“Left-wing liberals are using their friends in Hollywood and the media to distract voters from the heart of this issue, and Jim Carrey even went so far as to call Second Amendment supporters “heartless mother*******’,” he said. “With this rhetoric and today’s vote, your support is more important than ever before.”
On the campaign’s Facebook page, Team Mitch posted a picture sent by a supporter mocking Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid for seeking stricter gun laws, saying: “We love memes you send us! Keep them coming.”