McCain: ‘I don’t understand’ threats to block gun bill debate
April 7th, 2013
12:32 PM ET
2 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. Badboy

    This dinosaur needs to be retired. He is the poster boy for what is wrong in DC.

    April 7, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  2. James PDX

    McCain made sense. Is this Bizarro world? Well done, McCain.

    April 7, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  3. RainCityLady

    He's been in the Senate how long and he doesn't understand them blocking the bill? Come one, McCain. It's called gun lobby money.

    April 7, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  4. Razz

    Well Mr. McCain, I don't understand who you work for. And I don't understand why you are not listening to us Arizonans who live with drug gangs and illegal aliens. And I don't understand why this is so important right NOW. Are you not aware that this country is being threatened with WAR. I don't understand YOU Mr. McCain!

    April 7, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  5. lightontruth

    McCain is a traitor to America and mit as well go back to the Democratic Party where he came from.

    April 7, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  6. Austin Holmes

    II'm glad they blocked it, what they offer is useless and they even admit that it will be useless in the overall stats of gun violence. Banning variations of guns that overall make up less than 1% of the gun violence in this country makes no sense. That banning a variation of a handful of sports cars because they have more performance, but do they really make up the majority of car wrecks? Nah your mom and pop cars make up the majority.

    April 7, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  7. Laura

    I voted for Mr McCain and think he would have been a much better president than what we ended up with. That does
    not mean that I approve of all his actions and bills proposed. Changing our gun laws any would end up being only the
    beginning. Later when the government learns quickly that no amount of legislation is going to stop the screwballs and
    lunatics in our society who have no human compassion or morals and do not care about human lives except there own, from getting hold of a weapon and killing as many as they can. We will inevitably lose our rights to self protection in this
    land. The only ones who will have guns will be the police and the criminals. Senator McCain please use your head,
    or we will lose more of out freedom to chose as with Obamacare.

    April 7, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  8. Peter Topa

    I believe would keep guns out of the hands of criminals, but keep them in the hands of people who will use them the proper way. To hamper the legal gun owners, is silly. Does anyone remember the AMERICAN REVOLUTION or NOT!

    April 7, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  9. celietz

    I could care less if the government wants to check my background and monitor my gun purchases just as long as that information is not misused by the government of others and right now the government has already proven that it can not guarantee that. To date hackers have hacked in to government systems and government employees have provided information to out side sources.

    April 7, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  10. Jc

    The background check issue is so much more complicated than simply stating "expanded background checks". In theory its a good idea to include background checks on private sales, but how could you regulate it or enforce it without the government keeping a database on who owns what weapon? Does the government have a right to know how many guns you own and which ones? That needs to be part of the debate. If a gun is used in a crime, and its directly linked to a responsible gun owner, is he or she held responsible? How far does the background check legislation go to monitor you and your family in the name of keeping you safe? You can't just say expand background checks without explaining the depths at which the law will go. And this is hardly a GOP vs Liberal debate. 7 out of 10 liberal senators asked for and received money and support from the NRA in their election campaigns. The NRA supports just as many democratic candidates as they do GOP candidates. Its been that way for years. Liberal politicians that fear backlash are less likely to speak to their parties ideology. A lot of senators sought face time in the media immediately after the Sandy Hook shooting, yet are not willing to be all that liberal when it comes time to vote on the bill. Honestly, liberals should be more concerned with the privacy infringement that increased checks will have, given that they don't like government intervention unless they asked for it. What I'm saying is the law has to be meaningful, and what Reid and Biden is a blanket law with very little meaning. In fact, most of what they put in isn't enforceable without spending a ton of money to do so.

    April 7, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  11. joeinalabama

    A concealed carry permit is good for a year, they do a background check before they reissue. Looks like a concealed carry permit should be good to buy a gun.

    April 7, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  12. Melanie

    If Obama wants to take our guns away, lets take away his personal guns and the guns garding him and his children and see how he likes it! If he has a right to own guns and be protected by guns, then we do too!

    April 7, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  13. RapaciousJaws

    Time for McCain to step down and get out of the way.

    April 7, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  14. Mark in Atlanta

    McCain is only sort of nutty so long as you don't try to talk to him about the unnecessary and unwinable war in Iraq. He's right on this one.

    April 7, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  15. letthepeoplevote

    Let the people vote on this. It's not up to congress to decide our fate. We control you not the other way around.

    April 7, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  16. Jan Marjamaa Grangruth Menahga MN

    These voted officials need to start doing their job. As a staunch Democrat I am proud to say "Thank you John McCain".

    April 7, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  17. BanGuns2013

    Let's just ban them all now. It is what the ultimate goal is anyways and we are just delaying the inevitable.

    April 7, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  18. Skarphace

    Melanie: "f Obama wants to take our guns away,"

    In case you haven't been paying attention, the part of Obama's recomendations to make assault rifles illegal has been removed from that list. Therefore, he does not want to take anybody's guns away. You ok now?

    April 7, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  19. mccainiscrazy

    Someone tell MCCain that his state of AZ is open carry...

    April 7, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  20. Majormauser

    I hate to say it. I wonder where we would have been with McCain as POTUS? Step aside McCain I've had about enough of your failed leadership.

    April 7, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  21. bkgrandma

    Sounds like Melanie has bought into all the NRA scare tactics. No one wants to take any guns away unless they are in the hands of people that can't pass background checks. I'm pretty sure that the president and the Secret Service have had extensive background checks. Is it possible that she is afraid if she had to have a background check she couldn't pass it??? 80% of the NRA members support it so I guess it can't be to bad.

    April 7, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  22. andres

    John McCain, the former independent. The only thing he has to lose by allowing debate on the gun bill is NOTHING. He has been around too long and knows that it will never get past the Senate. Indeed why not allow the debate, it isn't going to change the outcome.

    April 7, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  23. brasstacs

    If McCain doesn't understand why his fellow senators are trying to block the chipping away of the 2nd amendment rights of the people for liberal ideology, then he should just step aside and keep his mouth shut,and let those who know what their doing do their job.

    April 7, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  24. Rickapolis

    GOP continues to embarrass itself. McCain is right, of course, but the extremists are terrified of a fair vote. They drag America backward. We cannot remain a great nation as long as this continues. A pity for all of us. Murder Incorporated, er, I mean NRA has bought off enough congressmen and women so irrationality reigns.

    April 7, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  25. tom

    Universal background checks has such a nice ring to it. But I have yet to hear anyone explain in detail how this would be implemented in a way that interrupts criminal activity yet doesn't create felons when a gun is given to a family member as a present, loaned to a neighbor, or even transported to a gun shop for repair as a favor to a friend. If UBC's are the panacea that those who favor it claim, there should be ample evidence exactly how it will reduce crime. There isn't. Instead, it creates more hurdles and threats to honest law-abiding persons. Fix that and perhaps I could support it. As it stands, I can not.

    April 7, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
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