In Sandy Hook Elementary School, teachers died trying to protect children. In the U.S. Senate, politicians including Florida’s Marco Rubio found self-serving excuses not to put themselves between guns and future victims of gun violence.
The contrast between courage and cowardice rarely is so stark.
Because of rules that long ago became impossible to defend, it took only 46 senators to defeat a bipartisan proposal to expand background checks, which would have made it more difficult for criminals and dangerously mentally ill people to buy guns. It takes 60 votes to break a filibuster, so the minority of senators counted more than the majority of 54 who backed the measure.
More shamefully, the minority overrode the wishes of Americans — including most gun owners — who overwhelmingly support wider background checks. Now, the package of measures to reduce gun violence will not get an up-or-down vote in the Senate. Representatives in the House will not even have to face the choice. Other safeguards, such as a limit on the number of rounds that magazines can hold, also are dead for now.
Senators who voted against background checks voted to enable criminals, including killers. Up to 40 percent of gun sales in the United States do not require background checks. The New York Times and others recently have shown that there are thousands of firearms for sale on the Internet, and the weapons can be both offered and sought by sometimes-violent ex-felons. The bill rejected Wednesday would have subjected those sales, which now are unregulated, to background checks.
Sen. Rubio said background checks would infringe on the Second Amendment and would not protect lives. Those claims are lies. Senators who voted against the measure also claimed that it would be a step toward a federal registry and government confiscation. That’s not just a lie, it’s a paranoid lie, recycled from National Rifle Association honcho Wayne LaPierre.
The senators who killed the gun bill care more about their political lives than the lives of children. It’s easy to see what it will take to change their minds. Look at Republicans’ sudden willingness — led by Sen. Rubio — to establish a path to citizenship for immigrants in this country illegally. The GOP’s punitive position on immigrants cost them in the 2012 election and, with a growing immigrant population, would hurt the party even more in coming elections.
Who does not want gun sales to be subject to a background check? Criminals don’t. The firearms manufacturers that are the NRA’s real constituents don’t. On Wednesday, protecting them was more important than reducing the annual toll of 30,000 firearms victims.
President Barack Obama is right that the NRA’s toadies won’t change until proponents of sane gun laws become as motivated and organized as the extremists who have dominated Republican primaries. Politicians who shield the NRA must be replaced by members of Congress determined to shield children.
Jac Wilder VerSteeg
for The Post Editorial Board