By REID J. EPSTEIN | 4/17/13 6:01 PM EDT
President Barack Obama blamed a gun lobby that “willfully lied” and senators who “caved to the pressure” for the Senate’s defeat Wednesday of a bill to expand background checks.
“All in all this was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” Obama said in the Rose Garden. “This effort is not over. I’m making it clear to the American people, we can still bring about meaningful changes for gun violence as long as the American people don’t give up on them.”
Defeated and angry — and surrounded by Newtown families, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Vice President Joe Biden — Obama vowed to continue the gun control fight as he castigated senators who sank the bipartisan background checks proposal. He walked to the podium with his arm around Giffords, critically wounded in the 2011 mass shooting outside a Tucson supermarket, and hugged relatives of victims of the December Newtown shooting who attended the event.
But, he said, the next step was largely in the hands of people outside of Washington. Obama several times mentioned the National Rifle Association by name and called on supporters to show the same level of sustained passion and energy as their counterparts who oppose gun control measures.
“Those who care deeply about preventing more and more gun violence will have to be as passionate and as organized and as vocal as those who blocked these common sense steps to keep our kids safe,” he said.
Obama said winning gun control measures will require a sustained effort and organization building to match the NRA and other pro-gun outfits. He urged people to rise up for gun control with the same force that the the NRA opposes it.
“They are better organized, they are better financed, they’ve been at it longer and they make sure to stay focused on this one issue during election time,” Obama said. “That’s the reason why you can have something that 90 percent of Americans support and you cant get it through the Senate or the House of Representatives.”
Obama said he needs that support.
”To change Washington, you, the American people, are going to have to sustain some passion about this and when necessary you’ve got to send the right people to Washington,” Obama said. “And that requires strength and it requires persistence.”
Obama thanked Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) for producing the bipartisan agreement on background checks — itself a compromise on a fraction of the comprehensive gun control package he called for after Newtown — and urged people to carry on the fight.
Calling Wednesday’s actions “just round one,” Obama pledged his administration would take further action wherever possible, but said that it was up to voters to show politicians the consequences of voting against the amendment.
“I believe we are going to get this done,” Obama said. “Sooner or later, we are going to get this right.”