McCain: ‘I don’t understand’ threats to block gun bill debate
April 7th, 2013
12:32 PM ET
9 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.”

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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. Dennis

    Skarphace, the "40%" number that keeps getting quoted is from a very old, very small study. The study was done in 1994, and 251 people in the survey answered the relevant question. Please be aware of that when you attempt to use this number in a debate.

    April 7, 2013 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  2. looknclick

    The goal appears to be is to disarm US citizens by all means possible.
    Or, at least, make them less efficient than enforcement.
    This is in preparation to the fun years, which are coming, after printing dollars would not do it no more.

    April 7, 2013 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  3. Karen

    Any gun control legislation is a threat to Second Amendment rights.

    April 7, 2013 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  4. Mike Callery

    The first post I read was from Paul. Unfortunately Paul, people who think like you are so very wrong for all the right reasons. I have said it before and say it again. How can any educated, intelligent individual, think that this country, who cannot defend itself against the magnitude of illegal drugs, can suddenly defend itself against weapons, assault or otherwise? Criminals are going to get their hands on drugs, weapons, and do, as they have done, many illegal actions. If one thinks the police are going to be the governing force to change all this, you are sadly naive. They will never be there at the moment a crime is taking place and we, as citizens, who are willing to educate ourselves on the proper use of handguns and take the appropriate courses, should be allowed to carry a weapons to properly defend ourselves and/or someone with us.

    April 7, 2013 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  5. eagerliving


    You said that 40% of gun sales are private transactions. Do you really think that people, who have a gun for sale that is not on some sort of registry, would start requiring background checks? Right! How would anyone know that I sold my gun to my neighbor? How would the government track the transfer of privately owned guns in order to enforce a universal background check law? They CAN'T, not without a registry.

    April 7, 2013 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  6. bearitstrong

    "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."

    Yet another GOP "Axis of Evil"

    April 7, 2013 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  7. Anatoly

    How can we trust a government which as reported "the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has an open purchase order for 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition, some for hollow-point rounds (forbidden by international law in war), and a large amount for specialized snipers. This would be enough to sustain a war in America for 20 years... Time to wake up!

    April 7, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  8. Pico

    If this were the only thing that McCain didn't understand, it would be refreshing. Trouble is, he seems to be preoccupied with trying to get over the fact that he lost his chance to be president in 2008. He lost this chance because he insisted on having a running mate that was/is one of the most reprehensible people on the planet. If this nut would have been given access to the Oval Office, we'd all be living under overpasses and starving.

    April 7, 2013 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  9. A first

    Just watched an interview with parents of some of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings on "60 Minutes." Innocent young children and educators. It is sickening that politicians would ignore their pain and suffering to "protect" the Second Amendment. Our forefathers NEVER imagined the kind of weapons and ammunition magazines available today; they are a far cry from muskets. Those Sandy Hook parents are not calling for "taking people's guns." Shame on the NRA and the senators on its payroll for refusing to compromise.

    April 7, 2013 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  10. JKK

    I’ve been wondering why the big push for universal NICS checks on firearm purchases since this would not prevent most firearms crime or even the recent high-profile shootings. Once enacted as a federal statute, this is next:
    • Shift the burden of proof of eligibility from the FBI to the applicant.
    The NICS check is a virtual permit to purchase a firearm. Currently the FBI must prove ineligibility. Shift the burden to the applicant to prove eligibility. This could require the submittal of a clean police record, clean bill of mental health, proof of age and residency, certificate of completion of a safety course, references from family and employers, etc. Only then would an actual permit be issued to the applicant. This permit would be necessary to purchase and own a firearm.
    • Expand restrictions and disqualifications.
    Currently felony convictions and adjudicated mental incompetency are the primary reasons for denying a permit. Most any restriction can be enacted short of complete prohibition. Some possibilities: Any criminal conviction. Any recorded report of aberrant behavior. A bad or nonexistent credit report. Listed as a dependent for tax purposes.
    Be creative and use your imagination. The authoritarian liberals will.

    April 7, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  11. iamacamera1

    Attention Arizona: Please retire this guy. His shelf life has expired.

    April 7, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  12. Steve

    Who decides who is "mentally disabled"? What criteria are used? How do we know the label "mentally disabled" is valid? Most importantly, what rights do those who are accused of being "mentally disabled" have to defend themselves, i.e. to prove that the accusation of being "mentally disabled" is not true?

    April 7, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  13. Pocono Shooting

    The purpose of the Second Amendment is to arm people in order to prevent future tyranny. They need the tools to do this.

    The term "Well Regulated" in the Second Amendment meant "Well Manned and Equipped " in 1791 as was determined in the 1939 United States v. Miller case after referencing the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. The concept of Government Regulation, as we understand it today, did not exist at the time.

    United States v. Miller also determined that the term "Arms" refers to "Ordinary Military Weapons" (not crew operated). American Citizens have the right to Keep and Bear, which means Own and Carry, any weapons that a soldier carries into battle. That includes past, present and future weapons. A Militia consisted of armed volunteers willing to fight with their personal arms and not under government control.

    The 2008 Heller v. Washington DC decision reaffirmed that the Right to Bear Arms was an Individual right. The 2010 McDonald v. Chicago decision reaffirmed it yet again and made it clear that it applies to every state, every city and every town in the United States.

    To limit the Second Amendment to muskets would be the equivalent of limiting the First Amendment to writings in quill pens.

    Liberty is worth the risk of death!

    April 7, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  14. Pocono Shooting

    Expanded background checks will be abused.

    First instance of abuse is where the background checks are used to create in illegal national gun registry.

    The powers that be... can also lower the bar so that a person with a small misdemeanor for a bar fight back when they were in college is considered a prohibited person. In some states / cities excessive speeding or downloading a lot of music can get you a felony charge. Felonies are no longer restricted to violent crimes. How long before spitting on the sidewalk prohibits you from owning a gun?

    Domestic violence is being stretched to include just grabbing someone's wrist or shoving someone out of your way as you walk out the door. Something as minor as a wrist grab can be used deny a person their Second Amendment Rights. No end to the amount of abuse that background checks will eventually lead to.

    In NYC if you have a gun permit, the police randomly call your house and ask your family members if you every display any signs of stress or great anger... and then pick at that. The wrong answers by your family will get your permit revoked.

    The purpose of the Second Amendment is to prevent future tyranny.

    "When the govt fears the people there is liberty. When the people fear govt there is tyranny" – Thomas Jefferson

    ”Those who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security.” -Benjamin Franklin

    April 7, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  15. John Wiles

    For the filibusters, 'do not mistake absolutism for principle' or 'reasoned debate'

    April 7, 2013 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
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