U.S. Senate rejects expanded gun background checks

WASHINGTON — The Senate has rejected a bipartisan effort to expand federal background checks to more firearms buyers in a crucial showdown over gun control.

Wednesday’s vote, 54-46, fell six votes shy of the 60 needed for the measure to advance. Forty-one Republicans and five Democrats sided together to scuttle the plan.

It was a jarring blow to the drive to curb firearms sparked by December’s massacre of children and staff at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

President Barack Obama, who made broadened background checks the centerpiece of his gun control proposals, slammed Senate Republicans in televised remarks that followed the vote.

He said the Senate’s opposition to background checks for gun buyers marks a “shameful day” in Washington. A minority of senators decided “it wasn’t worth it” to protect the nation’s children, Obama said.

The president pinned the blame for the measures failure, though five Democrats also opposed the plan.

Obama spoke in the Rose Garden shortly after the Senate vote. It marked a major blow to the gun control push Obama started in the wake of December’s shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

Obama was introduced by the father of a 7-year-old killed in the shooting. Other families joined him in the Rose Garden, along with former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011.

The roll call was also a victory for the National Rifle Association, which opposed the plan as an ineffective infringement on gun rights.

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., voted against the proposal.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., supported the proposal but voted no in a procedural vote that allows him as majority leader to bring it up again.

The proposal would have required background checks for all transactions at gun shows and online. Currently they must occur for sales handled by licensed gun dealers.

The system is designed to keep criminals and people with mental problems from getting guns.

after a vote to expand background checks failed in the Senate.

The Senate vote was a major blow to Obama’s push on gun control. Expanding background checks was the focal point of Obama’s proposals drafted after the December shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Vice President Joe Biden said just before the vote that tighter gun control measures will eventually pass, suggesting the White House wouldn’t abandon its push even though the vote appeared headed toward failure.

Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault contributed to this report.

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