McCain: ‘I don’t understand’ threats to block gun bill debate
April 7th, 2013
12:32 PM ET
1 year 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. jboh

    Finally, McCain says something that makes sense.

    April 7, 2013 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  2. McCain Is A Rino

    Senator McCain, I appreciate your military service and sacrifice to this country, but I'd appreciate it if you didn't side with the gun-grabbers. There is no debate to be had on this – universal background checks will lead to a national registry. If you don't think so, then please tell me how these backgrounds and firearm purchases will be tracked. Finally, please tell me how these UBC's would've have stopped the Newtown shooting. They wouldn't have....

    April 7, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  3. rwroten

    SenatorMcCain has always been a decent man. I would like President Obama to offer him a cabinet position or active role in advising him on issues primarily in defence and immigration.

    April 7, 2013 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    I have nothing to hide, and would be able to buy a gun in either situation.

    April 7, 2013 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  5. Patrish

    Seems the list has only Republicans. Always the – pain in the butt. We keep records on almost everything in the modern times, so why not gun owners? It's not criminals I worry about, but neighbors/co-workers that be might be unhinged. The mass shooting in the states have not been by criminals, but by unbalanced people that you could be working with, live by or even married to. Criminals are too busy working on crimes to spend time shooting up malls, movie theaters, or schools. Yes, criminals will find a way to get guns and drugs, but any effort to control these shooting idiots is better than doing nothing.

    April 7, 2013 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  6. pokey5735

    "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.”

    That is the problem. He doesn't understand that the people are suppose to let the Congress know where they stand. McCain should retire because he is suffering from the same mental problems as liberals. Why? Because he is a liberal!

    April 7, 2013 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  7. Gary

    The Senate is bought and paid for by the NRA, both parties. The only solution is to ask them what the going rate is for an affirmative vote. Bloomberg, tip these cowards so we can move the country forward!

    April 7, 2013 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  8. Dave

    It's already illegal for criminals to have guns. Punishing the rest of us isn't the answer. Ignoring the root cause of the violence in America isn't the answer.

    "Paul

    Guns should belong only in the hands of armed forces and law enforcement in any civilized society."

    That's the very same statement the Nazi's made in 1933. If government could be trusted to do the right thing and tend to its business furthering the public good, perhaps we wouldn't need to have this discussion, yet we drug out our kids, let them run the streets, watch violence sensationalized in the media and movies, then cry when it all comes home to us. Perhaps we are completely misguided and should make it open season on the punks causing the problems instead of protecting the guilty by infringing on the innocent by slowly culling each of our inalienable rights back to dark ages standards.

    April 7, 2013 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  9. easchner

    McCain used to say a lot of things that made sense. Now he is starting to make sense again. Where was this McCain in '08? Not sure if he could have won, but letting the super right wing part of the GOP take control of his campaign certainly cost him votes.

    Congress is there to debate and have the tough discussions. Anyone on either side of the aisle that absolutely will not compromise (like say, a tax pledge) are not fit to lead us. This 'Dem has always liked McCain and just wished he had a backbone in '08 and moved the GOP to a more civilized discussion.

    April 7, 2013 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  10. LBB

    I don't understand how if the majority of Americans want something the Congress can't at least debate it. What's wrong with tighter background checks at gun shows etc? We don't let blind people drive. Even if one believes in the 2nd amendment, there is room for some improvement in the way we purchase and keep guns. The far right seems to be fairly selective in their interpretation of what people's rights are. Gays cant get married and a women can't make her own medical decisions, but gosh darn it they have a right to their gun!

    April 7, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  11. Dave

    When McCain admits he can't understand the basic core principles some of his fellow Republicans are standing up he becomes a Democrat in Republican clothing – another RHINO?

    April 7, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  12. Bill Hannegan

    Hoplophobes should not be involved in gun policy. If you know nothing about them, then you shouldn't be making rules regarding them.

    April 7, 2013 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  13. Geo

    I have to get a license to drive a car and they take my fingerprint and check my criminal record at the same time.
    I have to get a license for my car to be on the streets too.
    I even have to get a license for a dog.
    Why is it so strange to ask for gun registration?
    Why do you need 30 shot or more clips?
    Why are you scared to limit guns to psychos that can only be discovered with background checks?
    Why is the NRA so paranoid?

    April 7, 2013 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  14. NorCalMojo

    True to form.

    McCain cracks me up. Always so desperate for attention.

    April 7, 2013 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  15. David Anderson

    Ok th e40 percent that doesnt go through background checks is over 20 year old data. and the universal background checks is a stab @ registration.

    April 7, 2013 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  16. OD

    The TX and FL senators could start by getting both of their states to allow open carry.

    April 7, 2013 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  17. OneShot

    Maybe McCain and Biden should sit down and get more confussed, so that neither one understands it. Oh wait neither one does so they may have done that.
    As for the 40% figure, look back and see when that happened and how accurate the pollster even said it was.

    April 7, 2013 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  18. akita96th

    Good that gun bill needs to die....its nothing more than a democrat plan to grab guns one piece at a time it needs to be stopped now....This country is not run by a mob rule......not everyone agrees with gun laws...except cry babies and sissies.

    April 7, 2013 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  19. chet

    The basic thought John McCain is that the 2nd Amendment is not to be infringed! PERIOD!

    April 7, 2013 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  20. Jimmie Russells

    @Paul

    Why do the police need military weapons? Do you realize that today police are using real machine guns and armored personnel carriers?

    I say get them off of the streets entirely; the police shouldn't have them either.

    April 7, 2013 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  21. W. LaP.

    If you were looking for a list of Senators to vote out of office, here it is: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. And, of course, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas

    April 7, 2013 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  22. Jt_flyer

    Until we eliminate More republicans from political office NOTHING good will ever happen in the US. We drop kicked 10 house seats and 3 senate seats.... Next election there will be many more.

    April 7, 2013 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  23. EoC

    Paul
    Guns should belong only in the hands of armed forces and law enforcement in any civilized society.

    Paul,
    There was a country that tried that once. It was called the Third Reich and their leader was Hitler. That is exactly what you and others like you in this country - and currently in the White House - are trying to do today. Socialism will not fly. True Americans will oppose it to their death. There are millions of us - and the numbers are growing - that will not hesitate to fight a second civil war to keep our freedoms.

    April 7, 2013 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  24. nnutsweekly

    Troubling that he would say their job is to vote and let the people know where they stand. Sorry senator, your job is to know where your people stand and vote for them.

    April 7, 2013 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  25. Don

    To Paul,

    The Second Amendment (of the Bill of Rights) states that I can own a firearm and the right to do so "Shall not be Infringed".

    April 7, 2013 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
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