WASHINGTON — A visibly upset President Obama lashed out at opponents of gun control Wednesday, just hours after the Senate failed to pass the legislation he's been calling for since the shootings at Newtown, Conn.
"I've heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory," Obama said in a Rose Garden statement alongside Newtown families and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. "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. That didn't make our kids safer."
"Victory for not doing something that 90% of Americans, 80% of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done?" Obama went on. "It begs the question: who are we here to represent?"
Obama had tough words for critics like Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who said Wednesday gun control proponents had used victims families "as props" during the gun debate.
"I've heard folks say that having the families of victims lobby for this legislation was somehow misplaced. A prop, somebody called them," Obama said. "Are they serious? Do we really think that thousands of families whose lives have been shattered by gun violence don't have a right to weigh in on this issue? We think their emotions, their loss is not relevant to this debate?"
Obama said the National Rifle Association had "willfully lied" about the background check bill, warning it was a the first step toward a national gun registry the bill's language expressly outlawed.
Faced with the defeat of one of the signature legislative efforts of his second term, Obama's message to his allies was, essentially, we'll get them next time. He called on gun control advocates to stay focused and to keep the pressure on politicians through the next election. He called on voters to remember Wednesday in November, 2014.
For the Senate minority that voted against background checks today, Obama seemed to have little patience left.
"All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington," he said.