Expanded background-checks legislation may have been stopped in its tracks, but gun control advocates — led by the families of the Newtown, Conn., victims — are vowing to fight on.
Three of those victims’ family members on Sunday morning promised to remain a vocal, highly visible part of the national debate.
They also bashed Congress and accused lawmakers of shirking their responsibility to keep the American people safe, a charge that has been made by President Obama and many Democrats eager to see harsher gun laws.
“I’m honestly disgusted that there were so many senators doing nothing about the fact that my mom was gunned down in her school,” said Erica Lafferty, daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hochsprung, who was killed in the Dec. 14 massacre.
Ms. Lafferty appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” alongside Carly Soto, sister of slain teacher Victoria Soto, and Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, also was among the fallen at Sandy Hook.
All three have spent time in Washington in recent weeks personally urging senators on both sides of the aisle to support the expanded background-checks measure put forth by Sens. Patrick J. Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, and Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat.
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The proposal was defeated last week by a 54-46 vote, representing a major setback to gun control proponents.
The larger firearms debate has, to some degree, been pushed to the back burner after the horrific terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon one week ago. But those two issues converged Sunday morning when a top Senate Democrat and leading advocate for an assault-weapons ban seemed to suggest that Americans wouldn’t feel the need for firearms as long as there’s a large police force protecting them.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, was asked on “Fox News Sunday” whether the people of Watertown, Mass., would have felt more comfortable with a gun in their home while alleged marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was on the loose in the area.
She conceded that many would, but she said they shouldn’t simply have access to whatever type of gun they want.
“We did away with machine guns because of how they’re used. I think we should do away with assault weapons because of how they’re used. You can use a 12-gauge shotgun and have a good defensive effect,” she said. “Now you’ve got police all over the place in Watertown, so I don’t really think this is applicable.”
Amid strong opposition in Congress, the push for a renewed assault weapons ban is, at least for the time being, a lost cause. But that doesn’t mean that the gun control fight is over.
“We’re not going away. This is just the beginning. This is the first step. We’re going to keep fighting,” Ms. Soto said. Mr. Heslin added that he believes the entire issue has degenerated into a “political game,” pitting Republicans against Democrats.
While the background-checks vote did break down largely along party lines, there were key exceptions. Four Democrats opposed the bill, while four Republicans supported it.
Other GOP political figures also backed the measure, including Tom Ridge, the former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security secretary, who said he thought “at least the background check would find bipartisan support.”
“I regret that it didn’t,” he said during an interview on “Face the Nation.”
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani appeared on the same program and said that he believes it was easy to vote against the background-checks bill because it wouldn’t have stopped Newtown killer Adam Lanza.
Lanza’s mother legally owned the guns used in the massacre.
“The way this was presented gave people who wanted to vote against it an out,” Mr. Giuliani said.
• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at email@example.com.
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