Washington (CNN) - The Democrat who worked to expand background checks in the Senate told a group of reporters Thursday that the National Rifle Association's "scoring system," in which the group grades members of Congress, combined with members' fear of being seen as flip-floppers, derailed the measure.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, who worked alongside Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, said the NRA's decision to include votes on the bipartisan amendment in its important rankings dissuaded members in pro-gun states from stepping up. "If they hadn't scored it, we'd have gotten 70 votes," he said. "I predict 70 votes without a scoring." He also vowed to bring the measure back at some point for a vote.
The Manchin-Toomey measure got 56 votes on Wednesday – four short of the 60 needed to go to a final vote.
In addition, Manchin told a breakfast sponsored by the Wall Street Journal that senators were afraid of all the tough votes–and positions–they will be asked to take. With the Senate about to consider immigration reform–and with same-sex marriage becoming more of a political football–he said his colleagues were unwilling to become too controversial by changing positions, especially on guns.
"So a lot of them are saying, listen, I had a position on the gay issue, and I've always stated that position…and I changed," he explained. "Now, you've always been a strong defender, an NRA A-rated member. Now you voted for something, they scored against you, and you're not. So now you've changed on that too. Have you really? Are you still the same person that we sent? Now, how much energy does that take to defend?"
Manchin also claimed that it was "disingenuous" of the NRA to oppose background checks, accusing the gun rights lobbying group of distorting the components of his bill, such as when a check is required for an internet gun sale.
"They're hanging on one thread – one little thread, and that's internet sales," he said. "Now, if you have a loving relationship with your family member and your best friend, and you've got to sell your gun on the internet, you better check that relationship. That's how far – you see how much crap that is? That's how far they went with that. That's just disingenuous. And I've told them that. I said that's just a bunch of bulls–t."
The NRA did not respond to a request for a comment.
Meanwhile the group founded by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, are vowing to continue pressing members of Congress to push for expanded background checks. Giffords, who was wounded in a January 2011 shooting in Tucson, and Kelly are both gun owners and have been defenders of the Second Amendment in the past. But they also say there needs to be "common sense" measures to prevent more gun violence.
Kelly told a Washington news conference Thursday their group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, will soon launch television commercials praising some of the senators who voted for the Manchin-Toomey measure: Democrats from "red states," such as Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, as well as Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona.
"We are not deterred by actions of a small group of senators" who did not listen to the majority of the public, Kelly said. He added: "That is unacceptable."
He claimed some of the senators who ended up voting against the proposal did so out of "fear of the gun lobby."
Kelly said his group will highlight to constituents of members of both parties how they did not support the proposal and said it is also considering running ads against some of them.
On Thursday following an interview his friend and fellow Arizonan, Sen. Jeff Flake, gave talking about his no vote, saying he wanted to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those with mental illness, Kelly tweeted him: "@JeffFlake I'm confused, friend. You had that chance yesterday. Want to rethink and join me and Gabby in making Arizona safer?"
Flake's office did not respond to a request for a comment.
Earlier he told reporters: "If I were beholden" to the NRA, "I wouldn't have voted" last week to allow debate on the gun bill to proceed. "That's the beauty of a six year term."
He added: "What has been a little upsetting is to hear people try to maintain that we were just caving to pressure, and discounting any issues that we had with the legislation and with the language. And that's not right."
Following Wednesday's vote, Giffords and Kelly have said ultimately the make-up of Congress may be the only way to get some reforms passed. "We are going to have to change" who is in Congress, Kelly said at the news conference.
Organizers of their group, which is three months old, said it has 300,000 members now and has raised millions of dollars so far. They vowed to have a million followers within weeks.
Giffords sent an e-mail fundraising pitch to supporters Thursday, saying "since last night, well over ten thousand individuals have stepped up and contributed to our organization…to hold the Senators who opposed background checks accountable for their vote. I'm not going to stop fighting."
- CNN's Todd Sperry and Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this story.
nra fears back ground checks.half their members would not pass the smell test
Sadly Republican Senators rarely think of what is best for the Nation. Their only concern is staying in office.
I'm glad they're optimistic. I'm not however. I've lost all hope in Congress to do the right thing. We practically had to twist their arms for them to pass the 9/11 healthcare bill for the first responders.
Americans you must vote in 2014. Donot repeat 2010. We must vote in people who care about all Americans.
Lets be REAL! Current gun laws and laws in general are not enforced. No law has stooped free will. The next comment is sarcasm and meant to show how stupid the gun debate is. Instead of a gun law maybe we should have a public list of everyone on anti-depression medicine, receiving disability for mental defect, and or diagnosed with a mental defect. If laws stopped criminal acts we wouldn't be having this discussion. To most important change we could make is to stop giving these sick people air time on our news station. Refuse to say their name. Refuse to show their picture. If these actions were not on TV there would be less of them. Last but not least laws will not stop free will and murder will continue.
Got to hand it to Gabby, not giving up on the fight. Cant say much for the COWARDS that voted against simple background checks. I guess unless you can put your feet in Gabby's shoes, you really just dont understand. Get em Gabby I support your efforts 100%.
Yep we need to vote in 2014. vote ALL gun grabbers OUT!
Pretty sorry times when our Congress owes more to the NRA than to the America people. Corruption happens when those in govt care more about what the moneys says than the people they are suppose to represent. We need campaign finance reform big time!! This should have been so simple and reasonable – common sense.
Ignore the backlog of felons who illegal have firearms continues. This bill would do nothing but expand the record keeping Feds from doing what? Shameful for Kelly and the other supporters to lie and think they care about public safety, yet blame the NRA which has a gun safety program for kids.
Vote the NRA out.
Democrats are obviously Anti-Bill of Rights.
Out with them in 2014.
Yep we need to vote in 2014. vote ALL gun grabbers OUT!
It's good we handily outnumber you!
Agreed that we need to single issue vote in 2014. Since no one is talking confiscation or a federal registry (LaPierre is lying on that one), the single issue would be the gutless wonders cowering under their desks praying that they can keep their jobs. It may take a few election cycles, but the 46 Profiles in Cowardice should be given tickets home – one way.
Sadly, the bill they blocked was so watered-down it wouldn't have done much to prevent the transfer of weapons to those who are too unstable, too young, a criminal, or too violent to own weapons. As long as firearms can be transfered (outside of gun shows) between individuals w/o an FFL to run background checks guns will continue to float around our society in willy-nilly fashion. For example, if a high school kid is caught with a gun and questioned about the weapon he could truthfully say "I bought it from some guy... didn't know his name... I don't know where he got it... I talked to him at the park and gave him cash for the gun..." Nobody could hold the person accountable who sold a kid the gun.
Can't get dugs off the street how you going to keep people that shouldn't have guns from getting them? No law you pass is going to stop killers that want to kill.
This isn't about gun owner rights, this is about the NRA representing gun manufacturers. More stringent background checks means less sales. The NRA's misinformation to their members proves this is a gun manufacturer's lobby and not a gun owner's rights group.
We now know which Senators are owned by the NRA those who sold out over 86% of the American people who wanted them to vote for stronger background checks. I think there are 26 Newtown Angels who wonder if anyone really cares that they were gunned down by someone who should have never had access to guns. I plan to fight on and I hope all who are so terribly shocked by the lack of backbone in Congress will also continue the fight.
ahh the list of ignorant people keep coming. i wonder when outlaws and criminals have gun unabated, i wonder how safe we will be. if someone criminal minded has a gun. or access to a gun, i wonder how long it will take for them to become themselves and follow their nature. lesson folks aint no one trying to take your guns, they are trying to take folks that will do you and your love ones harm guns away. is that hard to understand, or do i have to explain it again.