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. Glenn

    Refresh my memory....Didn't McCain pick Sarah Palin as a potential Vise-President??? We wouldn't be dealing "King Obama" if McCain had been smarter! DON'T TREAD ON ME!!!

    April 7, 2013 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  2. j

    They simply do not want the american public to know how many guns are really out there and being sold every year. Then they would not be able to funnel them to criminals as easily. Less profit. It's all about gun sales for the NRA.

    April 7, 2013 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  3. Jason B

    Just goes to show me those GOP that signed off on that letter have the NRA deep in their pockets. They're more interested in NRA money than doing what the majority of Americans want.

    April 7, 2013 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  4. yukonj

    mcain doesnt deserve to be where he is. he put our vets in nam in danger. he runs his mouth n says we should tell the people what we think. shouldnt he have said we shoud tell them what the people say. wake up america. now new york is telling us what we can and cant have for drinks. nough said. WAKE UP

    April 7, 2013 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  5. Dennis

    Still don't trust McCain, This move makes him look reasonable and moderate, when in fact he is what he has always been calculating and untrustworthy. He knows these other Repubs are outfront blocking any gun measures so he can aford to look reasonable.

    April 7, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  6. mlf

    I have asked this question before and so far no one has come up with an answer. WHY DOES ANY ONE NEED A HAPID FIRE WEAPON? Do any of our criminals have that kind of weapon? Weapons of war are not now and never needed in the hands of civilians. A good shotgun or handgun will do the job of protecting the family and home if need be. The NRA should be trying to help our government instead of fighting them. Remember bullets do not stop if they miss their target. Check out the practice ranges in the military, there is a high embankment at all firing range.

    April 7, 2013 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  7. NorCalMojo

    He's just mad because no one let him bomb Syria.

    Give him a cup of tea and some prunes and he'll settle down.

    April 7, 2013 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  8. Name lynn

    Mccain i dont know why you still in the news media, guns an you dont mix together.

    April 7, 2013 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  9. CaliforniaAC

    DON'T GIVE an INCH! Is the NRA Motto. They want more Americans killed so more guns are required for protection and eventually they will own America- So let us know where politicians stand on their vote so we know who to kick out of office.

    April 7, 2013 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  10. Just Me

    “But I will accept any rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”

    “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert Heinlein

    April 7, 2013 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  11. Jerry Bullock of Columbus Ohio

    Second Amendment! Really? You gun owners are so selfish. Only thinking of your own in securities. You are mouse without your piece. Cowards. So sad.

    April 7, 2013 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  12. Roger

    What are gun advocates afraid of?

    The truth.

    April 7, 2013 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  13. ARTraveler

    Hey, Jiohn, how about all those federal appointments your party is sitting on within the judicial system and the executive branch. They also deserve a vote.

    April 7, 2013 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  14. Frank

    With all the bullets being bought by the government(10 per every man woman and child) I think the people in the U.S. may wan't to think twice before they banish guns.

    April 7, 2013 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  15. McCain's too Old

    "Let the American people know where we stand" - John, you have it backwards. Your supposed to vote the interests of the American people...

    April 7, 2013 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  16. sj7896

    i love how on the homepage, CNN truncates the headline as: "Don't block gun bill, McCain says." what he actually said is that he thinks the GOP shouldn't block DEBATE over gun control – big difference. shame on you, CNN.

    April 7, 2013 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  17. JKB75

    If you have nothing to hide, I don't understand why you would be opposed to tighter gun restrictions. It seems like common sense. Only people truly fit to have guns should have them.

    April 7, 2013 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  18. Jon

    If the Repubs keep demonstrating this kind of extremism they might even lose their majority in the gerrymandered House.

    April 7, 2013 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  19. polycarp pio

    The problem is that the majority of Americans live in large cities and that is where the gun violence is WORST, and us rural folks dont want big city politics affecting our small town way of life. PP

    April 7, 2013 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  20. hjc

    A better proposal could have been fashioned in committee but it wasn't.

    April 7, 2013 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  21. Chuck

    That is the need to go to the house and rest on the front porch!

    April 7, 2013 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  22. Just Me

    Pass a budget first

    April 7, 2013 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  23. Mark

    I have often disagreed with McCain but on this one he is so right – why are some afraid to debate – that is why they are there, its what they are paid to do.

    April 7, 2013 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  24. apstar

    "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."
    Hopefully, this will be their first and only term.

    April 7, 2013 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  25. esu589

    And he wonders why he lost so badly.

    April 7, 2013 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
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