Editorial: The U.S. Senate surrenders to the NRA
All hope that the heartbreak of Sandy Hook would move Congress to finally do something to combat gun violence was lost yesterday when the Senate refused to expand background checks for gun buyers.
In a primal scream for action, about 90 percent of Americans polled have consistently said they want background checks expanded to gun shows and online sales.
Their pleas were ignored by the 46 senators who voted against a bipartisan amendment that would have mandated the checks while exempting sales between friends and relatives. Fifty-four senators did the right thing and supported the amendment, but 60 votes were needed to break the anti-democratic filibuster that killed it.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg got it exactly right when he called the vote "a damning indictment on the stranglehold that special interests have on Washington."
Exempting private sales was a compromise that diluted a preferable provision for checks before all gun sales. But no accommodation was enough to persuade naysayers to put protecting children ahead of protecting their prospects for re-election in states domnated by the radical notion that any curb on gun ownership is unacceptable. They maintained their craven fealty to the gun lobby, even as 32,000 Americans a year lose their lives to gun violence.
Background checks don't infringe on the right to bear arms. But they do help keep guns out of the hands of felons, people with dangerous mental illnesses, and others who shouldn't have them. Expanding them was the only meaningful provision left in the bill. A ban on assault weapons and a limit on the capacity of ammunition clips had already been stripped out after it became clear there weren't enough votes to pass them.
That left only funds for school security and tougher penalties for gun trafficking still on the table in the Senate. But who needs traffickers? Without background checks, violent people who can't legally buy guns won't need straw buyers to get all the firepower they crave.
What the Senate did yesterday was irresponsible and cowardly. The American people deserve better.