Tennessee senators voted Wednesday to help defeat or block a host of gun control legislation championed by President Barack Obama, four months after last year’s mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
The senators cited the preservation of Second Amendment rights as their reason for not supporting the bills.
Among the items opposed by Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker were proposals to ban certain military-style assault weapons, limit the capacity of magazines and expand the reach of a background check system for gun sales.
The senators’ votes were expected. In fact, neither Alexander nor Corker was considered in play, as both had expressed their intent to oppose key proposals before Wednesday’s roll calls.
Still, the senators and their Republican colleagues were berated by Obama, who accused them of “looking for an excuse” to vote against “common sense” proposals backed by a majority of Americans.
“There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this,” Obama said, in direct, unsparing remarks in a press conference outside the White House. “It came down to politics.”
Flanked by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, family members of Newtown victims and Vice President Joe Biden, Obama also accused pro-gun groups of being intentionally misleading about facts included in the bill to expand background checks, put forward by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Patrick Toomey, R-Pa.
“The gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill,” he said. “They claimed it would create some sort of big brother gun registry, even though the bill did the opposite.”
In a news release, Alexander disagreed.
“I voted against the so-called ‘assault weapons’ ban because it clearly infringes on Second Amendment rights, and I voted against the Toomey-Manchin amendment because it could easily evolve into a national gun registry,” he said.
Corker said he could not support the background check proposal because it would put strain on law-abiding citizens.
“Unfortunately, the Toomey-Manchin amendment overly burdens a law-abiding citizen’s ability to exercise his or her Second Amendment rights and creates uncertainty about what is and is not a criminal offense when it comes to gun ownership,” Corker said in a news release.
Both Alexander and Corker boast “A” ratings from the National Rifle Association, which lobbied against the bills.
The senators both supported an alternative bill put forward by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
The bill would have not expanded background checks but provided additional funding for prosecuting felons who are caught attempting to purchase firearms. The proposal would have also devoted $200 million to assist the mentally ill.
The amendment was rejected in a 52-48 vote.