U.S. Senate rejects bipartisan proposal to expand federal background checks to more firearms buyers

'It came down to politics,' President Obama said

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama blasted the United States Senate for rejecting a plan that would have expanded background checks for gun buyers.

"All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington," the president said, but promised, "The effort is not over."

Obama spoke in the Rose Garden shortly after the Senate vote Wednesday afternoon. He was introduced by the father of a 7-year-old killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and accompanied by former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011.

The plan would have required background checks for all transactions at gun shows and online. Currently,  background checks are required only for sales handled by licensed gun dealers.

The proposal was a part of a bipartisan compromise. Of all the gun control amendments, the measure on expanded background checks had the greatest chance of passing.

"All that happened today was a preservation of a loophole that allows dangerous criminals to buy guns," Obama said.

Both of Colorado's senators voted in favor of the expanded background checks legislation. Colorado recently passed a state law closing a similar loophole and requiring background checks on private sales.

The roll call vote was a victory for the National Rifle Association, which opposed the plan as an ineffective infringement on gun rights. The president said the gun lobby was responsible for inciting fear in the senators who voted against the plan. The NRA is known for working to unseat politicians who vote in favor of gun control, or who the powerful lobbying group deems as anti-Second Amendment.

"There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn't do this. It came down to politics," Obama said.

On Wednesday, the Senate also rejected a Democratic plan to ban assault weapons.

That defeat was expected. Both of Colorado's Democratic senators,  Mark Udall and  Michael Bennet voted against the amendment to ban assault weapons.

"In carefully studying the language of this specific assault weapons ban, it became clear that it went too far because it also would have banned certain hunting rifles and even some shotguns. And there was no opportunity to amend this legislation to make it work for Colorado sportsmen," Udall said. "While this legislation sought to keep the most dangerous weapons off of our streets, we needed a more tailored and measured approach that better respected our traditions of hunting, sport shooting and responsible gun ownership. More specifically, if this bill had been more carefully crafted to only ban weapons designed for the battlefield and keep them out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, I would have supported it."

Bennet said he supports limits to military grade weapons but this particular amendment was too broad for Colorado and doesn’t adapt to new weapons produced after the ban.

The Senate on Wednesday also rejected a ban on high-capacity gun magazines.

In his nationally-televised address from the Rose Garden, President Barack Obama said it is now up to the American people to contact their representatives and wield the power of the vote to make gun control reforms a reality.

"You need to let your representatives in Congress know you are disappointed," he said.

"I am disappointed that my colleagues could not come together and support this bipartisan background check legislation to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from obtaining guns," Udall said. "It's a sad day for our nation when a minority of the U.S. Senate has blocked common-sense legislation that is supported by 90 percent of Americans. And Colorado gun owners, hunters and sportsmen understand that part of responsible gun ownership is ensuring that if you sell your firearm to someone else, that person is legally allowed to own it."

Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords says she's "furious" about the decision.

Giffords is accusing senators who opposed new gun regulations of "cowardice," saying their decisions are "based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association."

Giffords' remarks were published on The New York Times' op-ed page Wednesday. She has become a vocal gun control supporter since she was shot in the head at a rally near Tucson two years ago.