Connecticut politicians reacted strong to the failure by the U.S. Senate to pass even a watered-down effort to expand federal background checks for gun purchases in response to the Newtown school massacre.

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, used just three words to describe his reaction: “Disappointment. Colossal disappointment.”

Cafero, who found himself under siege as he helped negotiate Connecticut’s sweeping gun bill, said he well understood the difficulty in discussing bans on weapons and large-capacity magazines.

“But background checks?  Background checks? I don’t get it,” he said.

House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, each said they felt sorry for the Newtown families who worked so hard for passage.

“I feel bad for Newtown families who have gone down to Washington and fought hard for this,” said McKinney, who represents Newtown. “I think it would have been an important moment for the country if Republicans and Democrats, as we did in Connecticut, had come together on just that one issue.”

“I am horribly disappointed,” Sharkey said. “Connecticut, I think, continues to lead the way. To the extent that Washington could not follow our example in both substance and in bipartisanship is stunning, frankly, to me.”

Sharkey said the fact that “the efforts of the families were not enough to sway certain senators in certain parts of the country is just breathtaking to me.”

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy noted that background checks was one proposal that nearly unanimous support in polling.

“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,” Malloy said. “The members who voted against this proposal should be ashamed of themselves.”

Mark Barden, whose son was killed in the attack, appeared with President Obama in the Rose Garden for a televised press conference to decry the vote.

“We’ll return home now disappointed, but not defeated,” Barden said.

He was embraced by Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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