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

    Guns should belong only in the hands of armed forces and law enforcement in any civilized society.

    April 7, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  2. ThinkAgain

    @blake: "McCain is a RINO. Might as well be a Democrat."

    Said like a true "big tent" Repub ... NOT!

    April 7, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  3. Dave

    Perhaps he is no longer paid for.

    On this matter.

    April 7, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  4. gentwelve

    Why are Confederates so afraid of a vote? Because they realize that within a few more election cycles that they and the Conservative GOP will be extinct.......

    April 7, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  5. Skarphace

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

    The problem is that 40% of gun sales are done through private sales which do not even require ID much less a background check. This system makes it way too easy for those with a violent history to purchase a gun.

    Only those who want people with a violent history to own a gun would be against a universal background check system. The argument that it would create a national registry is false. We already do background checks for most gun sales and there is no national registry.

    April 7, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  6. frank

    Mr. McCain, we are afraid of giving an each so the gun grabbers in Washington can throw out the second amendment. Most of the senate has made up their mind anyway. Debate what? That implies persuasion and compromise. I do not know where the Polls are getting their data that the vast majority of 200,000,000 Americans what universal background checks, however I am a big doubting Thomas on that claim. Adding Mental checks to the call in when someone wants to buy a firearm, hell yes. However that is it.

    April 7, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  7. Mark Martinez

    McCain doesn't understand a lot of things.

    April 7, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  8. Paul Brinkiman

    If you really want to save a lot of lives, ban the use of mobile phones in cars. That would prevent more deaths than this bill.

    April 7, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  9. guest

    Trust me said the spider to the fly

    April 7, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  10. BobW

    All the "open minded" bigots showing their true colors.

    April 7, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  11. Tom

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

    Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that everyone has the same goal.

    April 7, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  12. NameAlbrit

    What are you afraid republicans,if l buy a car, I have to pay for registration and insurance yearly, we have to do the same thing when we buy guns.

    April 7, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  13. Jeb

    Yes McCain, but the purpose of the Republican party is to obstruct any and all progress.

    April 7, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  14. Skarphace

    The Tea Party clearly does not want to debate the issue of gun control. This is something all Americans should be suspi cious of. If they were not afraid of the possible outcome of such a debate, then there would be no reason to be afraid of the debate itself.

    April 7, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  15. FredKelly

    The Second Amendment is no less fundamental than the First. In fact, the Second is the only thing that guarantees the safety of the First.

    April 7, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  16. BO

    I don't understand McCain. He's a washed up fool.

    April 7, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  17. Skarphace

    Paul Brinkiman: "If you really want to save a lot of lives, ban the use of mobile phones in cars."

    That has already been done. Now, can we get back to the topic of keeping guns out of the hands of those with a violent history, please? Oh, I forget. You don't want to talk about it. Figures.

    April 7, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  18. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Thank you Senator McCain. While Rant Paul tried to accuse the President of wanting to use drones to kill Americans on American soil which we all know is false, Paul doesn't seem to have a problem with mentally deranged people killing Americans with assault weapons. These right wing gun lunatics need to be voted out of office.

    April 7, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  19. David

    Since the goverment is not responsible for my family's safety, and I am don't tell me which weapon I can do it with.
    if a AR -15 is good enough to protect the president and his family then it's good enough for mine.

    April 7, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  20. Conrad

    why not?
    you guys blocked any logical proposals in the last past 4 years

    April 7, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  21. Skarphace

    PJ in NJ: "deranged people do not follow the laws."

    The question is: why should we not make it harder for those with a violent history to purchase a gun? As of yet, I have not heard a single argument against doing so.

    Currently, it is way too easy for those with a violent history to purchase a gun. Closing the 'private-sale' loophole by requiring that all guns purchases be accompanied by a background check would not keep guns out of the hands of those with a violent history but it would make it more difficult for them to purchase a gun. To say that we should not even debate the issue makes absolutely no sense.

    April 7, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  22. Charles Lorenzini

    Gun Control, if you cave on this one along with not closing the boarders, you will lose my votes and my families in the future.
    We have back ground checks now ahd have since the 70's, I would suggest like immigrations, enforce the laws that are instated at the present time..Both Aurora and Sandy Hook would have been averted..
    I also expect your support to filibustering, the party and we the people are sick and tired of you RINO , sellout approach… Starting to hinkg you sucked Arizona into beliveing your a Republican in sheeps clothing

    April 7, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  23. Charles Lorenzini

    Oh, and Pual as far as civiized i guess yu are refering to the supressed communist countires, suggest you may want move to one and live try Mexico, or UK or will be happy. Oh they are bring the guns back opps.

    April 7, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  24. Karloff

    Come on, Johnny, admit it–you're really a democrat.

    April 7, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  25. jahworks

    Republicans will not be in the White House for a VERY long time. We are so out of step with the "average" American. I think it may be too late for us to wake up right now. Some of the "Blue-haired WASPs that run our party need to remove themselves from the leadership in order for the Republican party to grow.

    April 7, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
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