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White House decries Senate 'cowardice' for rejecting gun control bills

A measure put forward by Democrats sought to bar people on FBI watchlists or no-fly lists from buying firearms.

Published: 21st June 2016 08:58 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st June 2016 09:00 PM   |  A+A-

By AFP

WASHINGTON: The White House on Tuesday denounced the "cowardice" of US senators who failed to pass gun control legislation taken up in the wake of the Orlando nightclub massacre.

US Senate rejects gun control measures after Orlando 

Four bills -- two proposed by Republicans and two by Democrats -- went down to defeat in the US Senate late Monday.

"What we saw last night on the floor of the United States Senate was a shameful display of cowardice," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told MSNBC television.

"They were common sense bills that were put forward that should have drawn strong bipartisan support that would prevent individuals who are currently suspected of having ties to terrorism from being able to buy a gun," he said.

A measure put forward by Democrats sought to bar people on FBI watchlists or no-fly lists from buying firearms.

Another Democrat-backed bill aimed to strengthen criminal and mental health background checks for those seeking to purchase firearms at gun shows and on the Internet.

A Republican measure proposed a 72-hour waiting period for those on FBI watchlists seeking to buy weapons, so that the government has time to seek a court order to block the sale if need be.

The second Republican proposal aimed to improve the background check system. Democrats rejected both GOP measures.

Guns are responsible for some 90 deaths each day in the United States, but serious legislative efforts to enact gun control are only raised after particularly horrific shootings.

Americans are still reeling from a lone gunman's June 12 attack at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida that left 49 dead and 53 wounded, making it the deadliest mass shooting ever in the United States.

Police stormed the club and killed the gunman, 29-year old Omar Mateen, a Muslim American of Afghan descent pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group during the attack.

President Barack Obama has spoken out after each tragic shooting, exhorting Congress to enact stronger gun control laws to no avail.

Obama made a similar plea last week while meeting with the families of the Orlando shooting victims.

So far, however, the Republican-led US legislature has failed to pass any new gun control laws, with opponents saying that to do so would infringe on the constitutional rights of gun owners.

Earnest said their reticence has more to do with deference to the US gun lobby group, especially the powerful National Rifle Association.

"Republicans have run around and spent the last week saying radical Islamic extremism to anybody who will listen, but when it actually comes to preventing those extremists from being able to walk into a gun store and buy a gun, they're AWOL," Earnest said.

"They won't do anything about it because they're scared of the NRA."

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