A lot of people are understandably upset about what the Senate did to gun control on Wednesday afternoon. Put bluntly, the Senate voted down a gun control bill that the majority of Americans supported. Everybody probably knows by now how President Obama feels. Standing next to Gabrielle Giffords who is "furious" at the White House, the president scolded the Senate for failing to move forward with gun control reform and said it was "a pretty shameful day in Washington." A very vocal group of gun control supporters echoed the sentiment in the minutes that followed — more on that in a second.
But conservatives seem predictably pleased. And hey, why shouldn't they be? They took a measure like expanded background checks — a measure that 90 percent of Americans support — and more or less filibustered it out of existence. They even pulled some sympathetic Democrats across the aisle in the process. That's a quite a feat, politically speaking! However, if you agree with the president, it's also quite a betrayal. Stonewalling the popular legislation not only betrays the majority of Americans that support it. It also betrays the victims of gun violence whose friends and family have been pleading for Washington to do something productive about the problem.
Based on what many these conservatives have been saying, that's no big deal. They sure seem smitten about blocking the legislation and aren't afraid to say so. All else fails, this crop of politicians has won a friend in the National Rifle Association and, presumably, the organization's truckloads of money. In case you had any doubt about the contrast between the winners and losers of Wednesday's political poker match, we've collected some of the more powerful reactions below. Feel free to leave your own in the comments.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell jumped at the opportunity to mock the gun control advocates who lost out in the vote. The Kentucky Republican got all Internet snarky on his Democratic counterpart, Harry Reid, posting this meme to the Majority Leader's Facebook Page just minutes after the vote:
Sen. Roger Wicker, the Mississippi Republican who was the target of the recent ricin attack on Capitol Hill, gloated in real time by broadcasting his vote against one measure on Twitter. Wicker then followed up with a press release going into detail about his decision and yelping the too familiar line, "I have not and will not support any attempt to infringe or undermine the Constitution’s Second Amendment protections."
I just voted against the ban on assault weapons.— Senator Roger Wicker (@SenatorWicker) April 17, 2013
Utah's Republican Sen. Mike Lee took the Twitter bragging approach as well and even used all caps. (You can almost hear him saying "Neener, neener" behind Democrats' backs.) Lee was apparently ready for the bill to fail, because not long after the vote, he had an opinion piece in USA Today. It's a little surprising he had to gall to namecheck the same shooting victims whose families said that senators should be ashamed of themselves:
Unfortunately, the proposals offered in the Senate — including the expansion of background checks and bans on certain semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines — served primarily to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens, while doing little, if anything, to prevent the kind of tragic crimes that took place in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.
Obviously, Sarah Palin had something to say. She'll also be joining Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and others at the NRA's "Leadership Summit" on May 3:
Politicians' expanded gun control effort fails in the Senate today. Count this a victory for the 2nd Amendment and law-abiding citizens.— Sarah Palin (@SarahPalinUSA) April 17, 2013
Again, President Barack Obama is very upset. In the reaction speech mentioned above, he not only criticizes the "distortion of Senate rules" that enabled the legislation to fail but also accused the gun lobby of deceit. "The gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill," said the president.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is also, obviously, upset. In a statement posted to New York City's Tumblr (of all places), Bloomberg didn't mince his words. "Today's vote is a damning indictment of the stranglehold that special interests have on Washington," the mayor wrote. It wasn't all fire and brimstone, though. Bloomberg rounded out his statement on an optimistic note. He declared, "The only silver lining is that we now know who refuses to stand with the 90 percent of Americans – and in 2014, our ever-expanding coalition of supporters will work to make sure that voters don't forget."
Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords penned an opinion piece for The New York Times that went live a couple hours after the vote. It's worth reading in full, and it's about fear. The lede:
SENATORS say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets. The fear that those children who survived the massacre must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them, so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the gunman found them.
Sen. Pat Toomey who penned the failed amendment for expanded background checks took a rather humble approach, posting his reaction as a series of tweets. Those that hoped Toomey would be the Republican champion of gun control will be disappointed in the fact that Toomey is done with the issue and will not fight for it. In reverse chronological order:
I did what I thought was the right thing for our country.— Senator Pat Toomey (@SenToomey) April 17, 2013
I sought out a compromise position that I thought could move the ball forward on an important matter of public safety.— Senator Pat Toomey (@SenToomey) April 17, 2013
My only regret is that our amendment did not pass. It’s not the outcome I hoped for, but the Senate has spoken and it’s time to move on.— Senator Pat Toomey (@SenToomey) April 17, 2013
Sen. Diane Feinstein, who's sort of become the face of gun control, stated the opposite, despite the fact that her amendment won only 40 votes. I'm disappointed by today's vote, but I always knew this was an uphill battle," said Feinstein. "I believe the American people are far ahead of their elected officials on this issue, and I will continue to fight for a renewed ban on assault weapons."
Perhaps the most resounding gesture of discontent, however, came from someone who's not even American: Piers Morgan. In a tweet that was retweeted thousands of times, Morgan put it bluntly:
The U.S. senate just voted against expanding background checks for gun sales. What a pathetic, gutless bunch of cowards. #NewtownBetrayed— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) April 17, 2013