The US Senate shot down Wednesday a measure
that would have expanded background checks on gun purchases, in a
blow to efforts by President Barack Obama to tighten gun laws.
The 100-member upper chamber of Congress voted 54-46 on the amendment to broader gun control reforms, falling short of the 60 votes needed.
The vote was the first on a series of amendments to a broader gun bill that also would increase school security in the wake of a massacre at a Connecticut elementary school last year.
Votes are also set on a ban on assault weapons and limits on high-capacity ammunition clips, both of which are likely to fail amid opposition from gun rights advocates.
The White House said ahead of the vote that it recognized tougher gun laws were a difficult political proposition, but said the background check proposal had broad popular support and should be passed.
"There is a path, a very difficult path, but a path, to get to 60," spokesman Jay Carney said. "There ought to be a path to get to 100."
He called on lawmakers opposed to the move to explain why and to "ask themselves who they're representing."
Two US senators who are gun rights advocates had proposed the amendment seen as a bipartisan compromise that would have instituted criminal and mental health background checks on gun purchases at gun shows or online, which are currently excluded from such mandatory checks.
Senators Pat Toomey, a Republican, and Joe Manchin, a Democrats, gun owners who have a strong record as defenders of the constitution's second amendment that guarantees the right to own guns, had hoped their compromise on mental and criminal background checks would provide common ground for the Senate and House of Representatives to pass a bill that Obama will sign into law.
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