Minutes before President Obama delivered an emotional speech asking lawmakers to pass sensible gun safety measures in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, word came from Capitol Hill that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) had signed onto a letter pledging to block votes on any of Obama’s proposals for gun legislation.
Obama delivered his speech surrounded by a group of victims of gun violence, including three parents of Newtown victims. All had come to Washington to demand that Congress take action to stop gun violence. Obama’s speech called on average citizens to ask for the same:
The notion that two months or three months after something as horrific as what happened in Newtown happens and we’ve moved on to other things, that’s not who we are. That’s not who we are.
And I want to make sure every American is listening today. Less than 100 days ago that happened, and the entire country was shocked. And the entire country pledged we would do something about it and that this time would be different. Shame on us if we’ve forgotten. I haven’t forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we’ve forgotten.
If there’s one thing I’ve said consistently since I first ran for this office: Nothing is more powerful than millions of voices calling for change. And that’s why it’s so important that all these moms and dads are here today. But that’s also why it’s important that we’ve got grassroots groups out there that got started and are out there mobilizing and organizing and keeping up the fight.
Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) office was the first to announce that Rubio had signed onto the filibuster pledge, a joint effort by the offices of Lee and Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). In an earlier statement, Lee claimed that Obama was using “the tragedy at Newtown as a backdrop for pushing legislation that would have done nothing to prevent that horrible crime.”
There’s no question that some parts of Obama’s gun violence prevention proposals would elicit strong opinions in the Senate, but by promising to filibuster them, Rubio, Lee, Cruz, and Paul are actually blocking the “robust and open debate” that they claim to be seeking. A majority of Americans support background checks and bans on high capacity ammunition, two of the proposals in Obama’s package, but thanks to the filibuster they might never see a debate on the floor.
In his speech on Thursday, Obama pushed for proposals including universal background checks, stricter penalties for people who buy guns with the intention of selling them to criminals (straw purchasers), an assault weapons ban, and a limit on high-capacity magazine clips.