U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin denounced the Senate's failure to approve more background checks for gun buyers Wednesday, while U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley unsuccessfully pushed a plan he said would improve enforcement of firearms laws while preserving Second Amendment rights.
''After Sandy Hook, we hoped that Congress, at long last, would be able to come together to pass sensible legislation to prevent future gun massacres,'' said Harkin, a Democrat. ''Instead, a majority of senators once again has blocked even the most common sense gun safety measures. Expanding background checks for gun purchasers was the very least we could do to honor the memory of those 20 children and six educators killed at Sandy Hook.''
In a written statement, Harkin said law enforcement officers have testified that improving background checks would make ''a real difference'' in reducing gun violence. He described the compromise forged by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., as a ''very modest measure.''
''The tragedy of Sandy Hook is now compounded by the tragedy of a Senate that is not allowed to work the will of the overwhelming majority of the American people,'' he said.
Grassley, a Republican, said expanded background checks would not have prevented the December school shootings in Connecticut.
''Criminals do not submit to background checks,'' he said.
Grassley and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, co-sponsored an amendment to the gun control bill that would do these things:
Improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System;
Require the federal courts to submit more information to that system;
Require states to submit mental health records to the background check system;
Condition federal grant money for states on their submission of mental health records;
Study the causes of mass shootings;
Reauthorize the federal Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act;
Extend the Community Oriented Policing Services Secure Our Schools Program through 2023.
The amendment wasn't approved, but it won so many votes that Grassley said it should be the basis for future legislation.
''Our amendment gained the most bipartisan support of any comprehensive package that has been offered,'' the senator said in a written statement released Wednesday evening. ''The Senate majority and the president should now turn to our amendment as the path forward. It's a sensible alternative that was developed from the ground up in the Senate. It's got wide-ranging, broad-based support and takes a responsible approach to addressing some of the problems we've seen, all while protecting Second Amendment rights.''