Senate Gun Defeat: A 'Shameful Day For US'

Sky News US Team

The US President has accused lawmakers of "caving in" to the gun lobby after a reform bill to tighten the law was blocked in the Senate.

The reforms would have seen stricter checks for gun buyers in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shootings.

Speaking at the White House, Barack Obama said the Senate members had decided it "wasn't worth it" to save children's lives through stricter gun control.

He also railed against the National Rifle Association (NRA), saying the gun lobby and its allies "willfully lied" to its constituents about the contents of the bill in order to defeat it.

"All in all this is a pretty shameful day for Washington," Mr Obama said.

Even though Wednesday's vote was on a bipartisan compromise, it fell short of the 60 votes it needed to pass the Senate.

Also speaking at the White House, Sandy Hook parent Mark Barden, who lost his son Daniel on December 14, said the bill's failure would not stop him and others from fighting for limits on firearms.

"What happened in Newtown can happen anywhere. In any instant, any dad in America could be in my shoes. No one should feel that pain," he said.

He added: "Our hearts are broken. Our spirit is not."

The proposal would have required background checks for sales at gun shows and online. Currently, they are only needed for sales handled by licensed gun dealers.

The measure had in recent weeks become central to Mr Obama's gun control effort after lawmakers made clear they would not pass legislation banning assault-style weapons or high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Still, the bill had little chance of passing in the House of Representatives even if the Senate had approved it. Some conservative senators may have considered it risky to vote for it considering its likely doomed future.

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, herself a survivor of a shooting and a gun control advocate, responded to the Senate vote with dismay.

"If members of the US Senate refuse to change the laws to reduce gun violence, then we need to change the members of the Senate," Ms Giffords said.

She also expressed her fury in an article for the New York Times, accusing senators who voted against the changes of "cowardice".

She claimed their decisions were "based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association."

The Senate also rejected a separate measure banning assault weapons and one requiring states to recognise each others' concealed firearm permits.

The bill had been hatched in a rare compromise between politicians from opposite sides of the aisle: Democratic Sen Joe Manchin and Republican Sen Patrick Toomey.

The conservative Mr Toomey explained the agreement did not conflict with his party's second amendment platform.

"I don't consider criminal background checks to be gun control," said Mr Toomey, who like Mr Manchin is a gun owner and avid hunter.

He added: "I think it's just common sense. If you pass a criminal background check, you get to buy a gun."

Opponents of the restrictions - which would have been the most meaningful gun curbs approved by Congress in two decades - insisted they would not have worked.

Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe said most proposals were "predicated on one assumption that somehow we think that the criminal element will single out this one law to comply with."

Chris Cox, a top lobbyist for the NRA, said the change "would have criminalised certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbours and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution".