McCain: ‘I don’t understand’ threats to block gun bill debate
April 7th, 2013
12:32 PM ET
5 years ago

McCain: ‘I don’t understand’ threats to block gun bill debate

(CNN) – Sen. John McCain said Sunday that he opposes the thought of filibustering a debate over gun legislation that will probably be brought to the Senate floor this week, despite threats of such action by fellow Republican senators.

“I don't understand it. The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand,” Arizona's McCain said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

A trio of first-term GOP senators–Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas–stated in a letter last month that they will block any gun control legislation that they consider a threat to Second Amendment rights.

Several other Republican senators joined in, and in an expanded letter to be sent Monday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, they wrote that they would oppose a bill that "would infringe on the American people's constitutional right to bear arms, or on their ability to exercise this right without being subjected to government surveillance."

The additional names include Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida; Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma; Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas; Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin; Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming; Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho; Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana, and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas.

The three-paragraph letter doesn't include the word "filibuster" but appears to be a warning that the Republican will vehemently stand against any "vehicle for any additional gun restrictions."

McCain, who also criticized Paul’s filibuster last month over the administration’s drone policy, said Sunday that he would not encourage such an approach.

“I don't understand it,” he said. "What are we afraid of?”

Although recent polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans favor an expansion of the background check system to include private transactions, such as those made at gun shows, sharp division over the issue is expected in the Senate.

The upper chamber is on schedule to begin voting on gun control measures as soon as this week, when Congress returns from its spring break, but Democratic sources admit that the gun bill as currently written does not have the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

The powerful National Rifle Association is staunchly opposed to the bill. It favors expanding the system to include more data on those with a history of mental health issues but fears that a broader expansion or records of sales could violate Second Amendment rights and lead to further restrictions.

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is shaping up to be an influential figure on the bill’s trajectory, as he strongly opposes a point in the legislation on keeping records on gun owners.

Meanwhile, the White House has been ratcheting up its own pressure on Congress to pass the legislation. President Obama urged action last week when he traveled to Colorado, site of a movie theater massacre in July. On Monday, Obama will make a visit to Hartford, Connecticut, not far from the Newtown elementary school where 20 children and six adults were killed nearly four months ago.

"On the eve of Senate consideration of gun safety proposals the President will speak, as he did at the State of the Union, about the obligations the nation has to children lost in Newtown and other victims of gun violence to act on these proposals," a White House official said.

McCain said Sunday that his decision on whether to support the bill coming to the Senate would hang on a multitude of questions, indicating further the need for debate.

“It depends on how they're carried out, how long, what the depth of it is,” he said of the background checks. “This is another reason why we need to go to the floor. Everybody wants the same goal, and that is to keep the guns out of the hands of criminals and people who are mentally disabled. And background checks are being conducted. Are they sufficient? Are there ways we can improve those? Then I think that's a subject the American people and the Congress could be helped by if we have a vigorous discussion.”

- CNN’s Dana Bash, Ted Barrett and Jessica Yellin contributed to this report.

Filed under: Gun control • Gun rights • John McCain
soundoff (315 Responses)
  1. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    This is one of the few times that McCain is sounding rational and lucid!

    April 7, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  2. Rare

    John McCain is actually starting to make some sense.

    April 7, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  3. ak_steve

    McCain says, " The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and to vote". He must not have gotten the GOP memo that change their purpose to "doing nothing", ruin the country" and "blame Obama".

    April 7, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  4. Ed1

    If you are going to pass a new gun law then have one that makes sense that's why they are trying to block it doesn't make sense enforce the laws we have now before you make up new ones.

    It might be time to think retirement.

    April 7, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  5. Matt

    The majority of Americans support this bill. Senators and Congressmen- it is your JOB to do as the people wish!!!

    April 7, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  6. Kthegreat123

    Is the old McCain back?

    April 7, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  7. Blitz

    Rand Paul is like a child covering his ears screaming I'm not listening blah blah blah....

    Grow up and learn to debate an issue instead of shot gunning sound bites. He is not serving KY or the US in good faith

    April 7, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  8. Joe in MA

    McCain has always had the guts to stand up for what he believes instead of giving into the party. We need more courageous leaders like him.

    April 7, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  9. jnpa

    Maybe McCain is finally tired of being part of the obstructionist party!

    April 7, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  10. tychi

    In many areas requiring laws, Congress has failed America and the states have had to try to fill the gap. At least McCain is trying.

    April 7, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  11. Pander Bear

    Re: keeping records on gun owners – Do the Gov't keep records on Car owners? Yes. Do the Gov't keep records on Home owners? Yes. But keeping records of gun owners is going to cause the world to fall apart? Baloney. More paranoia from a group of people who should not own gun in the first place – because of their paranoia.

    April 7, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  12. Joe Plumber

    Rand Paul was right on the drones. He is wrong on gun control. Let it come to debate and vote.

    April 7, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  13. G tech

    How many times have you heard of a trained police officer getting into a shooting and emptying his high capacity magazines at the criminal but maybe hitting the bad guy once. Yet they expect us to defend ourselves with 10 rounds? I don't think so.

    April 7, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  14. PJ

    "I don't understand it".
    Yes, you do. When you called them "wacko birds", you had it right. Too bad you apologized.
    Cruz has done nothing since he has been in Washington (3 months), but vote "no" and filibuster.
    Texas needs to wake up, and fast.

    April 7, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  15. Gurgyl

    Does this coot know that this nation needs GUN-BAN LAWS? Yes, it does need.

    April 7, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  16. serious?

    You must be totally uneducated on politics. McCain will go down as one of the most influential and productive senators in history. Dont let your headline reading ignorance fool you. Even Ted Kennedy showed immense respect foe McCain (and vice versa).

    Its nice to see him back to his old "macerick" ways.

    April 7, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  17. chz

    Arizona needs to get rid of this rino.

    April 7, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  18. Bob

    I am sure that when Senator McCain said “I don't understand it. The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand,” he meant that his job is to debate and let the rrst of the senators know where his constiuents stand. Anything else would be pure arrogance on his part and a clear misunderstanding of what an elected officials job is.

    April 7, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  19. Bill

    Pass a budget first.

    April 7, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  20. J

    Second Amendment rights. The ones with the guns call the shots.

    April 7, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  21. ArizonaYankee

    Hey McCain, how does this prevent a criminal from getting a gun ???? It doesn't. Wake up John and support the 2nd ammendment, which is all that is needed, unless of course you are a socialist, then I understand......

    April 7, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  22. JohnRJohnson

    The Republicans in Congress are an international embarrassment. They represent the lowest rated, least productive, most obstructive Congress since the Civil War. To oppose the completely rational and practical need to regulate the sales and purchase of military style weapons in this country is the height of political stupidity. More than 90% of Americans support universal background checks. More than 60% support a ban of semi-automatic weapons that accommodate high capacity magazines and those magazines as well. What we're dealing with here are is a group of politicians who are trying to score points with the paranoid survivalists in the base of the Republican Party who think that the government is out to steal their liberty. It's a mild-form of insanity that they are pandering to with this threatened filibuster.

    April 7, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  23. cjpa

    Never thought I'd hear myself say this, but, Good for you, Sen. McCain!" Bring it to a vote and let the people know where you stand - how Congress is supposed to work!!!!!!

    April 7, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  24. Bob W.

    McCains job isn't to let the people know where he stands, it's to be the voice of the people. If he doesn't know by now what "We the People" are afraid of, he needs to step down immediately. He has no business helping to set policy for our great nation if he doesn't understand what we believe.

    April 7, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  25. JohnnyZ

    My objection is regarding how a background check is performed on a buddy I sell a gun to or a relative I give a gun to. These laws pass but does the public know what the law states? Are buyers now in a national database? Can I hand down my guns to my son?

    Even though I have a concealed carry license, I still have an instant background check done not only when I buy a new gun, BUT EVEN WHEN I PICKED UP A PISTOL FROM REPAIR. I found that hard to believe but obliged. Will those who never oblige jump through these hoops?

    April 7, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
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