“All in All, This Was a Pretty Shameful Day for Washington”

President Obama, speaking at the White House after the Senate blocked new gun-control laws.  Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a shooting victim herself, is on his left in this picture.  Vice President Biden is on his right, along with families who lost loved ones in the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

A frustrated and angry President Obama blasted the United States Senate on Wednesday, for blocking his efforts to toughen the nation’s gun laws.

And he promised he would not give up.

“All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” he said at a White House news conference.  “This effort is not over.”

On Wednesday, legislation that would have expanded background checks on gun buyers fell six votes short of the 60 needed to move forward under the Senate’s rules.

And a measure that would have renewed the national ban on military-style assault weapons – the kind used in the killing spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, last December – went down by a vote of 60 to 40.

Supporters of expanded background checks say the legislation would have prevented criminals and people with mental illnesses from getting guns at gun shows or on the Internet – places where background checks are not currently required.

“All that happened (Wednesday) was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check,” the President told reporters.

(A “loophole” is another word for an exception.)

The President’s opponents disagree.

“Expanded background checks would not have prevented Newtown,” said Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords stood next to the President at Wednesday’s news conference.

So did families from Newtown who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook.

Giffords is still recovering from the shooting that nearly killed her two years ago in her hometown of Tucson, Arizona.

“I’m furious,” she wrote in an essay in Thursday’s New York Times, in reaction to the Senate’s decision.  “I will not rest until we have righted the wrongs these senators have done.

“They will hide their decision behind grand talk, behind willfully false accounts of what the bill might have done,” she added.  “Trust me, I know how politicians talk when they want to distract you.  But their decision was based on a misplaced sense of self-interest.”

Giffords is accusing her former congressional colleagues of caving into pressure from the National Rifle Association (NRA) – a group that strongly opposes virtually any effort to strengthen the nation’s gun-control laws.

The NRA has already vowed that it will work to defeat any senator or representative who sides with the President on gun control.

In a written statement, the NRA applauded the Senate for blocking the proposed gun laws.

“Expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools,” executive director Chris Cox said.

Supporters of tougher gun laws had a different reaction on Wednesday.

“Shame on you!” Tucson resident Patricia Maisch screamed from the Senate gallery, after watching the legislation fail.

Maisch is credited with saving lives at the scene where Giffords was shot, by helping to prevent the gunman from reloading his weapon.

“They need to be ashamed of themselves,” Maisch told NBC News.  “I think the ones who voted ‘no’ … have no soul.  They have no compassion for the experiences that people have live through, gun violence, who have had a child or a loved one murdered.”

President Obama was particularly angry about a comment made by Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

According to media reports, Paul and other opponents accused the President of using the Newtown families as “props” in the effort to pass tougher gun laws.

“That disappoints me,” Paul added, according to the Associated Press.

“Are they serious?” the President responded.

Mark Barden spoke for the Newtown families at Wednesday’s news conference.

His 7-year-old son Daniel was one of the 20 kids killed at Sandy Hook Elementary last December 14th.

Six school employees were also killed.

“We are not defeated.  And we will not be defeated,” Mister Barden told reporters after the Senate’s votes.  “We are not going away.  And every day, as more people are killed in this country because of gun violence, our determination grows stronger.

“Our hearts are broken,” he added.  “Our spirit is not.”