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. Charles Lorenzini

    John, What else did Obabm and Reid feed you at your outing...did he buy you off like Kedding..

    April 7, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  2. John john the pipers son

    sell all the guns you want, makes illegal and then go after the ones who bought them, OK by me.

    April 7, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  3. Robert

    Before we worry about the mentally ill or increased background checks, why don't we ban people who have been proven to be irresponsible with firearms from owning them? Any person who has accidentally shot another person in the face should not be allowed to own a gun, but has Dick Cheney's guns been taken?

    April 7, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  4. William Miller

    You conservatives need to understand that eventually, if and when your group retakes the Executive Branch of government (a big if at this point) you will need at least a few Democrats in Congress to get anything done. If your ilk decides to continue to obstruct everything and anything that Democrats propose, then you can expect much of the same from Democrats in Congress should you regain the White House. What goes around comes around.

    April 7, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  5. Van Krunk

    McCain, your fired! Enjoy your big new home here in Sedona...

    April 7, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  6. Dave

    Let's just go ahead and name Obama the dictator of the USA. Might as well give up our right to vote too.

    April 7, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  7. steveds

    You do realize that the 40% statistic is flat out wrong, dont you? Go to a gun show and TRY to buy a gun from a vendor without one.

    April 7, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  8. steveds

    @Paul – Yep, thats what the Nazis thought also.

    April 7, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  9. Todd Geist

    “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,”

    Umm, the last time I checked they are supposed to be the voice of the people. Since when do our representatives tell us how we are supposed to think?

    April 7, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  10. lord toronaga

    He's a strange man on any level. The banning of assault rifles will never succeed in reducing the killings. .5% .5% .5%
    Understand ? NONE. Ban your liquor...this stuff produces big numbers. Ban crazy student mass killer liberals. That aught to make some big changes also. Liberals just hate guns period and the conservative law abiding people who own most of them....

    April 7, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  11. lensmith

    The second amendment is outdated and should be repeal or at least modified to up to date.

    April 7, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  12. km

    The NRA must be defanged and in time it will be!

    April 7, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  13. GAK

    Each and everyone commenting on this is in a national data base right now or were you not aware of that? We are put in to a national data base when you got your drivers license,its called the NCIC.ANY police officer when they stop you by just having your drivers license can check a NATIONAL DATA BASE to see if you have any warrents or wants for a crime. They can run your car tag in a national data base to see if its stolen and who owns it..You are in a data base when you got your voters card,SO why should the sales of guns be any different?? The Supreme Court has ruled numerous times the 2 nd Amendment does not guarantee you the right own what ever you want!! Limits can be enacted and its perfectly legal,because your right has not been infringed, you can still buy a gun ,just certain ones are not.. Also let's look at who is blustering about a flibuster,what side of the Republican Party to they hail from?? Would it be the Tea Party side?? They are afraid to let it coem to a vote because THEY would actually have to put their name to a vote and don't want the majority of people to know who is against the will of the majority..

    April 7, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  14. Rick1948

    Pretty weird talk from the man who has spent the last 4-1/2 years blocking votes.

    April 7, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  15. RichardS

    The 2nd amendment, if done away with by continuing bills niggling away, will be infringed on. It's a slippery slope and a domino effect will ensue and the bill of rights will be riddled with holes.

    April 7, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  16. DuluthMN

    "Guns should be only in the hands of armed forces and law enforcement in any civilized society?" Try fantasy thinking layered on being un-American. The efforts for dis-arming Americans extends only to law-abiding citizens and their firearms. It leaves illegal weapons in the hands of bad guys and there's no plan to disarm them. In fact anti-gun proponents refuse to publically talk about it. Why is that and what purpose is being served here?

    April 7, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  17. w

    Gee, isnt this the same McCain who wanted US troops to go into Egypt and Syria?

    April 7, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  18. elucidated1

    Good ol' Ted Cruz may look great to his base but he is making major mistakes if he has any thoughts of national elections. Right now Texas is turning purple and will be blue by 2020. If he thinks latinos like him he might want to understand why they call him "el coco."

    April 7, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  19. PR

    Bring the bill to a vote. Quit tryiing to hide behind the filabuster. REPUBLICANS ARE LIARS AND THIEVES.

    April 7, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  20. Hugh Mann

    Rand Paul is the new leader of the Stupid Party

    April 7, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  21. mackie66

    Yes, we have the same goals,but do I really trust the liar in chief, who incidentally pinned an exe. order today letting people who cant speak english, vote. Thats against the law in this country but why let a little law stop the mad liar.

    April 7, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  22. Jack


    I think you are right. It appears there is a group of Republican's that again only what it their way and have been bought by the NRA.

    They can call me a RINO, because they the Republican Party will become a minority party.

    April 7, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  23. Danram

    As a lifetime registered Republican, I wish the Republican party had more principled, reasonable people like John McCain and fewer far right-wing nut jobs.

    April 7, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  24. Thom

    Where in the 2nd Amendment does it say that felons and lunatics do not have the right to bear arms???? It states the right for ALL Americans to bear arms, so why are we making rules as we go along ??

    April 7, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  25. hewen1944

    its sad that we are no longer the republic that made america great. what many fail to remember is that we are a republic and not a true democracy and this was done for a reason. The founding fathers were aware of the fact that a republic guarantees certain rights whereas a democracy can easily become one of the most restrictive forms of government in the sense that with the support of 51% of the population you can legally imprison, kill, or strip all rights from the other 49%. it may not happen today or tomorrow but who are we to strip the right of stopping domestic tyranny from future generations. "the beauty of the second amendment is that its not needed until they try to take it away" Thomas Jefferson

    April 7, 2013 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
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