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)

    I'm glad there are people willing to stand up to the president going to specific places to stir up emotion to push the anti-american agenda. The way the rights of law abiding citizens have been trampled over the last decade is disgusting.

    I find it funny people like Comrade Bloomberg...buying elections in states other than New York to push his big-brother-knows-best agenda..while the majority of his Mayors Against Illegal Guns buddies are all getting rounded up on corruption charges just goes to show it has nothing to do with what's best for the American People....but what will allow these fraudulent public figures to remain in control.

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

    so when Mr. McCain has threatened filibusters on other occasions such as the Rice nomination what was he afraid of then? i dislike when politicians are hypocritical. course it is the rare one that isn't!

    April 7, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  3. blake

    McCain is a RINO. Might as well be a Democrat.

    April 7, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  4. 1969Vet4Life

    “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.”

    I thought Senators are in Congress to let Congress know where the people of the State that they represent stand...government telling people how they should think? Especially for McCain, the majority of people in Arizona "stand" for what he is arguing.

    April 7, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  5. george

    were afraid of u and big government !! i might add the trinny of this government is out of control...

    April 7, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  6. 1969Vet4Life

    (correction) "....arguing?"

    April 7, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  7. vothmr

    unfortunately more people jumping on the band wagon. CIvil rights are not negotiable.

    April 7, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  8. Steven Cart

    Interesting that these 10 Senators represent only 14.29% of the US population (and Florida is half that number) and they want to deprive the other 87% of there right to be heard and have their say on gun control. Let's face it, the Senate is VERY skewed to smaller populated states. Augusta, Georgia has a bigger population that all of Wyoming!

    April 7, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  9. Name Uche Agonsi

    I don't understand it too, or for that matter, most actions from Repub party members. Maybe they should be granted the legislation to enjoy their so-called full rights under the second Amendment .......everyone appearing everywhere with congress, sports, churches, campaign grounds, night clubs & entertainmental venues with .....even amoured American dream.

    April 7, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  10. JIMM

    So does that mean that these GOP Senators are on favor of allowing felons to obtain guns? Are they in favor of strawman puchases? Are they in favor of gun trafficking?

    April 7, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  11. Dennis

    McCain had no problem 'understanding' the power of the filibuster back in 2005 when he joined the "Gang of 14" Senators who wanted to stop the Republicans from implementing the 'nuclear option' - which would have allowed them to stop the Democrats from filibustering Bush's Judicial (Circuit Court) appointees, like Miguel Estrada and nine others. I wouldn't be surprised if McCain comes up with another 'scheme' to stop Republicans from filibustering Reid's gun control agenda. Funny how "rational and lucid' McCain becomes whenever he supports the Democrats.

    April 7, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  12. jabmyeyes

    There are giant holes in the current background check system that makes the current system obviously useless. Gun manufacturers are similar to those who create computer viruses. They create a problem then sell what they claim is the solution. I like Chris Rocks solution. Charge 1000 dollars for a bullet.

    April 7, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  13. kathy/Minnesota

    If they want to dig their own ditch on this one go for it, #self destruct 2014,2016

    April 7, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  14. Jonline

    Insane. Republicans represent no one but the NRA if they oppose background checks.

    April 7, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  15. Richard in Houston

    Pure politics all around. McCain reading polls and the Rand gand looking to their re-election the next time around. They can now say we were against this legislation and tried to protect the second admenment. Even though it is not in jeapordy.

    April 7, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  16. Ed Vines

    Rational and lucid? I do not think you would be describing McCain this way if he wanted to debate additional limits on the First Ammendment. Please do not be tempted to bring up the "shouting fire in a crowded theater" canard to defend infringment on the Second Amendment. That limit on free speech does not stop someone from shouting "fire", it only prevents them from using the First Ammendment as a defense. If Congress is truly serious about gun violence, it should concentrate its efforts on the persons commiting the violence. Mental health reform and serious re-evaluation of treating so many kids with psychotropic drugs.should be the path taken.

    April 7, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  17. GaryOwen27

    I can't believe the Red Neck Right is concerned about the 2nd Amendment...their passage of the Patriot Act did away with all of our rights, the 2nd Amendment included.

    April 7, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  18. John

    If they were debating whether or not to remove your 1st amendment rights, would you want them discussing and voting your rights away, or would you want someone to say, "You can't do that and we're not going to let you!" ?

    April 7, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  19. spike404

    A meaningless bill that will only inconvenience law-abiding citizens. The firearms used at Sandy Hook were stolen.

    April 7, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  20. Oh boy

    I used to think Merica was a great country, but with the advent of social media in mass, every hick and biblethumper from banjo country can get your ear because of the cowardess of the elected officials.

    April 7, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  21. abnguy

    The issue with the expanded backround checks is that it creates what amounts to a national registry. A backdoor approach that would not sit well with most rational people. Sure we would all like to be able to call a national line to do a backround check on someone who wants to buy a firearm from me (heck it would be nice to backround check many of our politicians before we vote) but not if it creates a record.

    April 7, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  22. michelangelo64

    This shows how evil the most Republicans are.

    April 7, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  23. ru serious

    You might disagree with the man but got to give him credit on this issue, standing up to the lockstep NRA lackies. Thank you Sen McCain!

    April 7, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  24. Chris in MD

    “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,” Your not suppose to let the PEOPLE know where YOU stand, your suppose to let your fellow politicians know where the PEOPLE who you represent stand. You've forgotten that!

    April 7, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  25. Evervigilant

    Filibuster it, kill it, move on to other issues like economy, jobs, a nuclear capable North Korea, and Iran, our slow enslavement to China and other issues. Dont worry liberals, Feinstein has been trying to get the first AWB reinstated since the day it expired so she wont give up on her crusade.

    April 7, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
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