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. mdxn

    McCain states “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,”. How can the Senate let us, The People, know where they stand on the issue? Is it not suppose to be the other way around? This is a sad day for me.

    April 7, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  2. Observer

    One simple fact for this threat. The NRA bought and paid for their vote, they damn well better come thru.

    April 7, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  3. RickV

    I really wish John McCain would come out of the closet and admit that he is a Progressive. I guess I understand people voting to have him leave their state and go to Washington, but they are doing the rest of us a disservice.

    April 7, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  4. gwill55

    Everyone of these GOP senators need to be in a room with all the Sandy Hook parents, look them straight in their eyes, and tell them NOTHING needs to change on gun control. These completely unsympathetic and pathetic excuses for human beings then need to resign and find jobs that do not require them to care about their fellow human beings.

    April 7, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  5. Bill

    "Rational and lucid" may mean "what I want to hear".

    April 7, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  6. sammy750

    JOHN, It's about the politicians getting funds from the NRA. Politicians care less about the people that elect them. But we will vote them out of office. That is our only way to get rid of most of the Law makers. They hate the voters, love the lobbyist. We are going to vote them out of office. Republicans esp. since they will not pass any bills to help the people and nation. Republicans are the NO party since Boehner took over as speaker.

    April 7, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  7. Name

    He is just acting a fool

    April 7, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  8. burbanite

    It's gonna happen Johnny boy whether you like it or not. Now quit your whining and act like a Conservative, for the little time you have remaining anyway.

    April 7, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  9. Paul lytle

    John, why don't you just turn to your true colors and change parties! We all know your a democrat hiding in a republicans seat!

    April 7, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  10. Bingalinga

    Pass laws that work not ones that feel good.

    April 7, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  11. On Target

    The only sure way to slow the so called out of control gun deaths is to start with the Gang Bangers and Drug Industry...
    After that concentrate on the laws of patient privacy when it comes to Mental Instability.

    April 7, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  12. elucidated1

    For anyone to filibuster rational debate on ANY legislation reflects complete stupidity that is driven by political bias. What are Republicans afraid of? Do they really think this is going to help then in future elections?

    April 7, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  13. JD

    He's not a stupid or crazy man. It's all in how he is portrayed.

    April 7, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  14. adcName

    All gun crime are comited by criminals or ny people who by currency law are not suppose to have access to guns. So why go after law abiding citizens. Also the the president said that he would not go after our guns. What happened. Gun laws don't stop crimals. Why not focuse on the crinal and tougher punishment for gun crimes.

    April 7, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  15. just sayin

    because that is how the senate works little johnnie. you've been there long enough to know that. now stop attacking people in your own party and attack the real problem, the democrats that want to strip law abiding americans of their 2nd amendment rights.

    April 7, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  16. Alex

    Actually, one of the roles of the Senate is to uphold the Bill of Rights. Just because a majority votes for something does not make it okay, that is why we have a Bill of Rights. The U.S. is a republic, not a democracy. This escapes McCain and too many others.

    April 7, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  17. Thinkergal

    Sounds like the McCain of the old days, pre-George Bush, when McCain was sharp, lucid, and not a bitter, broken man.

    April 7, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  18. topperG

    The concern is probably all the other crap they throw in with it. Nothing gets passed as single legislation. Additionally, back ground checks don't keep guns out of criminals hands, or the mentally ill for that matter. Once agian, they aren't tryin to deal with real problems.

    April 7, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  19. Alex in New Jersey

    McCain is pandering to the liberals again. The GOP lacks leaders will guts, Rand Paul is one of the last patriots. It's amazing how a country with free speech is quick to condemn it. Democrats take McCain, you can have him, he's ultimately one of you.

    April 7, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  20. a slozomby

    thats only because he's trying to figure out which side to support 1st before flipping a few times.

    April 7, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  21. Brendan Perez

    Don't block that voter suppression bill, it deserves a vote.

    April 7, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  22. Robert Morales

    Exactly! You get paid to debate and pass laws! Maybe you should I don't know, actually debate at some point... I know, call me crazy

    April 7, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  23. Skarphace

    "Everybody wants the same goal, and that is to keep the guns out of the hands of criminals and people who are mentally disabled," says McCain.

    Wrong. This is why those who are in the pocket of the NRA, such as Rand Paul, do not want the debate to go forward. If such a debate happens, it will become quite clear that they want everybody to have access to guns, including those with a violent history. If you ask them, they point out that the 2nd Amendment says unalienable rights', and take this to mean that the right to own a gun should not be taken away for any reason.

    This follows the NRA's true agenda: increase gun sales at all costs.

    April 7, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  24. Kip (Portland)

    We are facing a possible nuclear attack from North Korea and President Obama is still trying to disarm law abiding Americans because of the actions of a few seriously mentally ill people. Let's focus on the real threat people and it is NOT America's lawful gun owners!

    April 7, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  25. Oh well...

    Republicans are disgusting,period.

    April 7, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
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