Connecticut lawmakers in Hartford and Washington were heartbroken that the U.S. Senate couldn’t find the courage to pass a bill that expanded background checks on gun purchases Wednesday.
It’s been 13 days since the Connecticut General Assembly passed legislation that expanded background checks, banned large-capacity magazines, and added 100 more guns to the state’s assault weapon ban.
U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal were hoping Connecticut’s bipartisan leadership on the issue in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting would help convince their colleagues in Washington to take a small step toward improving the nation’s gun laws.
But the measure fell four votes short of the super majority it needed to pass. It was defeated 54-46.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, advocates of better gun responsibility legislation — including family members of the Sandy Hook victims and both Murphy and Blumenthal — said they will continue the fight.
“Today was one of the saddest and shocking days of my life in public service,” Blumenthal said.
He said the hardest part was having to explain to the Newtown families that a measure with support from 54 Senators and 90 percent of the American public failed.
But it’s not the end of the issue.
“We’re coming back,” Blumenthal said. “The issue and the cause are not going away. The ‘Connecticut Effect’ is not going away. The families of Newtown are not going away and this bill is not going away.”
He said he doesn’t know exactly what the next step would be, but he said he would continue to fight.
Mark Barden, the father of Daniel Barden, appeared Wednesday afternoon in the White House Rose Garden with President Barack Obama.
“We’ll return home now, disappointed but not defeated,” Barden said. “We return home with the determination that change will happen — maybe not today, but it will happen.”
He said the families always knew it would be a “long road,” but “we don’t have the luxury of turning our backs.”
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero and House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, who helped craft Connecticut’s bipartisan legislation, said they were “disappointed.”
Sharkey said he was shocked that the efforts of the Newtown families were “not enough to sway certain Senators in certain parts of the country.”
“I don’t see how common sense legislation like what was being proposed — even in its most watered-down format — that there were some Senators who didn’t even have to courage to take on those basic provisions,” Sharkey said upon learning of the legislation’s defeat.
The sentiment was shared by President Obama, who called the Senate’s actions today “shameful.”
“I’ve heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory,” Obama said during a press conference. “And my question is, a victory for who? A victory for what? All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check.”
Obama vowed to continue to fight alongside the Newtown families and all the families whose lives were shattered by gun violence.
“I think you’re going to see absolute outrage on the streets of this country after this vote today,” Murphy concluded.
He said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Senate was back in the near future to revisit the vote.
“We’re here to stay and Newtown’s not going to be forgotten,” said Neil Heslin, who lost a son at Sandy Hook.
Heslin said his son, Jessie Lewis, lost his life to a “coward” and the group isn’t “going to lose our fight to some cowardly Congressmen.”
The National Rifle Association, which helped defeat the amendment, also issued a statement Wednesday.
“This amendment would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution,” Chris Cox of the NRA said. “As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools.”