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. Paul

    McCain not understanding something. There's a surprise.
    Could it be that the resistance is related to much of the legislation we see popping up demonizes gun owners, makes it harder or more expensive to own a firearm, and not actually solving the problem of gun violence?

    April 7, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  2. Freedom lives

    At some point will we have enough laws and enough of Big Brother?

    April 7, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  3. Kimo

    Conservatives always drone on about freedom but their actions are otherwise. There is no room for compromise, or discussion. It's either do it our way or else. We need intellects in congress, not street thugs.

    April 7, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  4. Kayser Suzee

    Republican senators staunchly oppose what Americans are now heavily in favor of? So what else is new? Maybe if gun-violence actually touched their own gated-community lives, instead of ruining the lives of lowly US citizens, they would get the message. The majority of people are now firmly against the gun free-for-all, which has been created and financed by the NRA and the gun-lobby, in order to boost arms sales and promote the lifestyles of the rich and famously greedy.

    April 7, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  5. HeinzM

    Sen McCain has outlived his usefulness and should be retired. His rhetoric lately pretty much shows that he is totally out of touch with what it is to be American and the rights of Americans.

    April 7, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  6. Name Ron

    Mr McCain,
    The purpose if the filibuster is to tell the Senate that we Do Not like where they stand and don't want this to pass!!
    Why do you want to erode the 2nd amendment? Are you joining the liberals?

    April 7, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |

    Senator, look at the last 4000 years of history. Up until the American Revolution real freedom and liberty for the vast majority of humanity was nonexistent! There where the elite and their minions and everyone else lived a bare bones poverty stricken existence and very short lives. Why did the American Revolution succeed? Because to a large degree the Americans prior to the Revolution where armed, and had the ability to overthrow their oppressors. We also received material support during the revolution from other foreign governments internested in our freedoms. The bottom line though, is can we really trust people like you (rich) and other people in government (Rich) who live well beyond the poverty level to really look out for the average Americans individual self interest? I really do not think so no matter how much you profess it.
    Many of the people I know, and I know a fair amount, both young and old do not want any impediment on their 2nd Amendment rights. Its like the old saying goes you are asking us to trust you, but with the behavior of congress over the past 50 years, is there any reason too!

    April 7, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  8. Dick Smegma

    Horrid knee jerk bill

    April 7, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  9. Eric

    McCain doesnt understand why is just like why he doesnt understand why he lost the election. because he is a sellout. And is disconnected from the electorate.

    April 7, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  10. Steve

    McCain should go talk to the ranchers in southern Arizona about eroding the right to bear arms. See how many of them have been assaulted, had their homes broken into to or have been approached by drug cartels. Once the first gun control bill gets passed the rest of our second ammendment rights will rapidly begin to crumble. I used to have a great deal of respect for McCain but now I see he is bowing to protect himself against the impending attacks from the left in a couple of years. He will never get my vote again.

    April 7, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  11. chuck f

    McCain is out of touch. He might as well just go over to the dems.

    April 7, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  12. Dustie

    I agree with Senator McCain; civil, reasonable debate is healthy for our country. I cannot understand why anyone would be opposed to background checks, to stopping the sale of weapons over the internet as James Holmes did, and trying to keep the guns out of the hands of criminals. But realistically, criminals have ways of getting around laws...hey, they are criminals...and they will obtain guns. There are other problems in the US, such as when a report of a threatening and dangerous person is made to the police...and nothing is done. As a former social worker, I can tell you that I have made such reports and been told that "nothing can be done about the threatening individual until they do something". Yes, there are 72 hour mandatory holds for evaluations, but too often (as in the case of James Holmes) these are not ordered and the psychiatrist, the mental health system, and the law drops the ball. That is what commonly happens. I do not see the problems in the US being approached in a systematic and honest way. I'm sick of the Republicans and sick of Obama and his supporters.

    April 7, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  13. Randy, San Francisco

    Good to see McCain act like a wise and seasoned US Senator by criticizing the immature Tea Party and Libertarian Senators of his party.

    April 7, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  14. grixxly

    “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...

    Senator... wow... Actually you are supposed to fight for where WE THE PEOPLE stand. See you represent the State of Arizona and should be fighting for the will of the people of Arizona. WE aren't your subjects. YOU are not our parents. This government, long ago, has forgotten it is the people of this nation that gives the government its power, not the government that gives us our rights.

    April 7, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  15. Catmandew

    McCain the dummy speaks again. Who told him he could talk? To the press no less. McCain will never learn the rest of the senate will just run him over the Democrats just want more power over the people and when they get it they will just throw you away John. So go ahead make a deal with them and when it is all over see where ya are. You really should be worrying about gettin Americans back to work and repealing Obamacare anyways.

    April 7, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  16. ssprince1

    I'm betting we could looks at how many NRA dollars were fed to all the Republican reps and senators listed in the article! Would explain everything.

    April 7, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  17. Abnjm

    Enforce the gun laws we have! We don't need new one's!!

    April 7, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  18. John Brown

    Just inforce the laws that are already on the books. Leave the 2nd amendment alone. This is (I believe) still a country that says you are innocent until proven guilty. Background checks assume you are guilty until proven innocent. Also, most gov people need to learn the difference between a semi-automatic and a fully automatic rifle, shotgun, and handgun.

    April 7, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  19. Linda Heavens

    This whole matter is ridiculous. The FDA and the pharmaceutical industry (in cooperation with the AMA) have been diagnosing mental health issues willy nilly. In the last 15-20 years everyone with a sugar addiction (because of poisonous foods pushed on the American people) to those who felt sad once or twice have been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, etc. The amount of people diagnosed with a mental health disorder has increased 20,000%. And now, they're going to villianize them and take away all their rights. It's your mothers, your brothers, your friends, and your sons. Don't be fooled, America, this is no coincidence.

    April 7, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  20. jodyhall77

    This guy has got to go.

    April 7, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  21. theMIDDLEst

    Every once in a while, McCain seems to be the only sane voice in his party.

    April 7, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  22. Jim

    The irresponsable NRA, no matter what, wants to flood America with gun$$$.

    April 7, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  23. debbyv

    By not debating this issue Congress doesn't do service to this country. Members of Congress who are backed by the terrorist group the NRA are traitors and should be treated as such. Aren't traitors put before a firing squad? Quite fitting don't you think?

    April 7, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  24. Eli

    If he believes that why not you know stop filibustering everything!

    April 7, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  25. mike melson

    I had to get a background check to get my gun. We do ;ot have to pass anymore rules, just inforce the ones we have!

    April 7, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
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