White House to Senators: Read the Gun Bill, Especially If You Vote No

By Fred Lucas | April 17, 2013 | 4:28 PM EDT

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (AP)

(CNSNews.com) – The White House issued a directive to senators Wednesday as speculation that legislation requiring universal background checks for gun buyers was doomed despite a major public relations push by President Barack Obama in the past months.

“The fact that we would be voting on a bipartisan, common sense, compromise amendment that would establish an expanded background check system has been known for some time. It is certainly the case that every senator should have read this amendment,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday. “If they haven’t, they should be ashamed. They should read it before they vote, especially if they’re going to vote no.”

Gun control supporters were hopeful after Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) put forward a proposal to expand background checks to include certain private sales and sales at gun shows.

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However, on Wednesday, more Republicans and some moderate Democrats, voiced opposition to the legislation – such as Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.

Carney insisted that senators opposing the Manchin-Toomey background check proposal would have to explain themselves, insisting 90 percent favor the concept – even though more recent polling data on the gun issue is mixed.

“If you are opposed to this legislation, you should obviously explain why,” Carney said.

“Explain why you are against something that 90 percent of the people are for, that vast majority of people in your state support.”

A Washington Post/ABC News poll in March reflected Carney’s assertion on the 90 percent figure, but a separate AP-GfK poll this month found a majority of 52 percent disapprove of how Obama is handling the gun issue. Further, support for stricter gun laws has fallen from 58 percent in January to 49 percent in April. The AP-GfK poll found 38 percent said gun laws should stay the same.

Support for gun control reached a high point in January after a gunman who stole the weapon from his mother’s house murdered 20 first graders and six school employees at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Families of some of the children killed were on Capitol Hill asking lawmakers to pass the background checks legislation.

Senate Democrats planned to push for other anti-gun votes Wednesday, including an amendment for a so-called “assault” weapons ban.

“The president wants this done. This is not about the president,” Carney said. “It’s about those families. It’s about the families of Aurora; it’s about the families in Oak Creek; it’s about the families in Virginia Tech, and it is common sense, reasonable legislation to pass to close loopholes that prevent people who should not by law have access to a gun from obtaining a gun. It’s pretty simple. It’s expanding a background system that exists already.”

Carney conceded it would be tough to reach the 60 vote threshold for cloture on the bill, but said it is possible.

“There is a path, a very difficult path, but a path to get to 60,” Carney said. “There ought to be a path to get to 100.”