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. Anonymous

    We don't need more guns laws/restrictions/bans. We need more or full enforcement of our current laws. Let's start enforcing our current laws and see if that makes a difference. If we can't / don't enforce our current laws then how are we going to enforce more laws.

    April 7, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  2. eleridge

    McCain wants the Democrats on record as either for or against this gun bill.

    April 7, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  3. steve in SD

    An overwhelming majority of Americans want additional controls on the sales of firearms...so what do these fools do? Naturally, block the desires of those people whom they are supposed to be serving.

    April 7, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  4. Surfer George

    In his heart, at his core, John McCain is a good man. If this action doesn't prove it, it at least makes a STRONG suggestion.
    At some point, probably after GWB "Swiftboated" him in the Presidential primaries, he lost his way, changed his focus from being a man for the people and BECOMING THE PRESIDENT. In that way, as with Mitt Romney, he became unelectable (and BITTER).
    My personal hope is that this stance is a sign of his return to the values that would have gotten my Presidential support had he gone Independent against Bush and Gore.
    Thank you Senator McCain for doing the right thing, not the "Right" thing because it is the right thing to do.

    April 7, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  5. Cliff Semler

    The fact that he has to ask whats the problem shows he is out of touch with reality,stop pandering with a bunch of feel good laws and start taking care of the mentally ill,not just giving them meds and sending them on their way.
    Infringing on the rights of law abiding Americans is not going to stop one senseless murder,because criminals don't go through background checks,Look at Chicago

    April 7, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  6. Harbin

    We don't need more guns laws/restrictions/bans, we need more or full enforcement of our current laws. Let's start enforcing our current laws and see if that makes a difference. If we can't / don't enforce our current laws then how are we going to enforce more laws. New gun laws only make it difficult on law abiding citizens.

    April 7, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  7. dgeugene

    The Second Amendment says that citizens can arm themselves as part pf a "well-regulated militia" to oppose the threat of an over-powerful federal government. Where does it refer to assault rifles, protecting your home, carrying concealed weapons, etc., that the gun addicts are howling about?

    April 7, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  8. Harry From Pa

    Thank you John McCain, hopefully your own party will listen to you.

    April 7, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  9. Cyndi

    it is not his job to tell us where he stands its his job to tell congress where WE the People stand

    April 7, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  10. Frishy

    What's wrong with a registry anyway? Let's us all know who has guns in the neighborhood, who should be responsible if one of their guns fall into a law breaker's hands, of if their kid's friend finds it and blow away their offspring, it makes life safer for firefighters and other emergency workers, etc.
    It is impossible for "the government" to confiscate all the guns in the country, and if any gun owner thinks their guns would stop a "government takeover" obviously doesn't understand that in the USA, the people are the government.
    How the Supremes could read "an individuals right to bear arms" when it is clear the intention was for those in a well regulated milltia's right to bear arms I'll never understand.

    April 7, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  11. Old Republican NY

    Has McCain emerged from his "tea party coma"?? WOW - He hasn't said anything this logical in a long time! Good for him for being on the right side of history – and for supporting strong gun control legislation!

    April 7, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  12. paul

    the people do NOT support ANY expansion on gun laws. these background checks are simply another step towards gun registration. and leads to gun confiscation. for those that doubt me just look at history.

    April 7, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  13. Harangue

    McCain sounding rational and lucid usually just means that the people he's arguing against are far more irrational.

    April 7, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  14. PJ in NJ

    deranged people do not follow the laws.

    in the case of the colorado theather, the killer was reported a month before the shooting as being dangerous, and yet no one did anything. that could have been prevented if someone DID do something.

    in the case of the school shooting, the killer was known to be mentally ill. the mother made the ultimate mistake of introducing a mentally ill person to firearms. (same thing for that US sniper who was killed.) those children would be alive today if the school was protected, yet no legislation has been introduced to protect schools. instead legislation is being introduced to restrict firearms from law abiding peple – but deranged people do not follow laws.

    if the deranged killers did not have rifles, they would use shotguns. no shotguns, they would use pistols. no pistol, they would use bombs. no bombs, they would use axes. deranged people can only be stopped by identifying them ahead of time and stopping them with force.

    passing legislation that limits firearms rights of law abiding mentally sound people do not protect children in schools.

    April 7, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  15. bigbendjc

    Sometimes McCain reverts back to the sane McCain of the early 2000's. That McCain I could agree with.......not the "Build the Damn fence" McCain.

    April 7, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  16. apetra

    Excuse me, but it's voting for closure of the Republican filibuster - the Democrats' proposal - that ends debate!

    April 7, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  17. Republicans Are The American Taliban

    Speed limits infringe on my right to drive a car.

    April 7, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  18. Fred

    McCain is often the only voice of reason in the Republican party. I'm not surprised he's dismayed by his peers behavior.

    April 7, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  19. Pest

    "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."

    Then limit legislation to the expansion of the background check system. It will probably pass. They're having problems because they are trying to go well beyond the scope of measures having broad support.

    April 7, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  20. Brett

    The purpose of the Senate is to debate and vote and let the people know where we (the senators) stand?

    John McCain has a severely delusional idea of what it means to serve the people. Instead, he thinks that he let's the people find out where he stands. This is what is wrong with our process, and gridlock is exactly what it needs when no one is represented.

    April 7, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  21. Danno

    McCain does sound reasonable....
    As a progressive and a gun owner, I am not opposed to new gun control legislation. But I am highly skeptical that these proposed new restrictions will do any good, considering all the guns used in the most recent massacres have all been stolen anyway.

    April 7, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  22. John

    I wish they would be as concerned about fixing our economy as they are about taking away rights. I don't understand why gay rights , immigration and gun control are the main issues our government are tackling.

    April 7, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  23. sonnie3

    McCain is continuing his down ward spiral. Time for him to be put to pasture as his common sense left him some years back.

    April 7, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  24. Allen Dem

    Meh i don't get it, new gun laws wont do anything... What was the deadliest shooting in america, well it was a guy up on a tower with a five shoot rifle, That guy that drove into a wallmart did it to prove a point i can kill without guns, and if he wanted to stay in his car and run people over he would have.

    Mark my words if they took everyones guns away today there would be car-bombing in Americana a week later, Want to fix it, a good place reverse the whole closing schools and after school programs well we spend tons on opening more prisons, Nothing is going to fix the USA till we start taking the basic steps towards improving the life's of our children, Largest prison population in the world, With two times the number of any other nation in the world of non violent prisoners locked up.

    We lock people up for longer and for more things then any place, We closed 2500 schools in 2012 well we opened 2000 more prisons and we wonder why we are all screwed up. And the real crazy part for every prison we run we could for the same cost run three schools.... FIX IT!!!!

    April 7, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  25. Larrs3

    This is another proof that most Republicans have been bought and paid for by the NRA. Just be thankful that Rand Paul wasn't elected as vice-president.

    April 7, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
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