HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut officials reacted Wednesday with shock, disappointment and anger to the U.S. Senate's rejection of gun control legislation inspired by the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
The state's General Assembly this month passed a sweeping bipartisan package of gun control measures, including a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines and an expanded assault weapons ban. Some lawmakers said proposals the U.S. Senate was considering paled in comparison to what they had managed to pass, with both Democratic and Republican support.
"Universal background checks? No? I don't get it. I don't get it," said House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero Jr., a Republican from Norwalk. "And I say that with utmost respect. I just don't understand how you could vote no."
Appearing with President Barack Obama, Newtown parent Mark Barden, whose 7-year-old son Daniel was killed during the Dec. 14 massacre, acknowledged that expanded background checks — the key component of the proposed legislation — wouldn't have saved Daniel, his 19 fellow first-graders and the six educators killed that day. However, he said the proposal has strong public support and would have ultimately saved lives.
"We return home for now, disappointed but not defeated. We return home with a determination that change will happen. Maybe not today, but soon," he said. "We will keep moving forward."
Both Democrats and Republicans in Connecticut had voiced support for federal legislation, often making the argument that whatever laws passed in Connecticut could prove ineffective without tougher federal laws on the books.
The background check measure commanded a majority of senators, 54-46, but that was well short of the 60 votes needed to advance. Forty-one Republicans and five Democrats sided to scuttle the plan.
Newtown First Selectman E. Patricia Llodra, a Republican, said she was disappointed by the Senate action on the background check proposal.
"To come four votes short of passing is heartbreaking," she said in an email to The Associated Press. "Polls over the past weeks have consistently shown that 87 percent of Americans supported the proposed extension of background checks. The compromise bill would have provided some additional protections against the possibility of guns coming into the hands of persons who should not have access to weapons."
Llodra said she was proud of the Newtown families and organizations that have "worked tirelessly to maintain the country's focus on the need for gun-control change." She said their courage, dignity and integrity cannot be denied.
"I am very proud of them and dismayed that more senators could not see the merits of their actions and of their arguments," she said, adding how it's important not to abandon their resolve. "We lost this battle, but the war is not over."
Connecticut House Majority Leader Joseph Aresimowicz, a Democrat from Berlin, said he met with same families who traveled to Washington and couldn't understand how senators weren't swayed by their personal stories.
"I think of Miss Hockley a lot," he said of Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son, Dylan, was killed at Sandy Hook. "How they could look and meet her and see the pain and her face and not do anything? I don't understand it. I don't understand it."
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said senators who voted against the measure "should be ashamed of themselves."
"There is much more than needs to be done on the issue of gun violence prevention," he said in a written statement. "But when the Senate cannot come together on an issue that is supported by the vast majority of Americans, there is little to no hope that common sense will prevail."