If anyone was searching for an act of courage on Wednesday, the chamber of the U.S. Senate was not the place to look.
There, a minority of senators again, bending to distortions of the National Rifle Association, voted against a common sense measure that could help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.
That measure – a rare bipartisan political accomplishment – was a last-ditch effort between Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to pass some type of meaningful legislation that could have helped prevent more gun violence. It only would have required background checks for people who buy guns at gun shows and from Internet dealers.
The measure failed to get the 60 votes needed in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. Forty-one Republicans and five Democrats voted against the measure, despite pleas from relatives and friends of gun victims, including parents of the 20 slain elementary students in Newtown, Conn.
Manchin and Toomey – both of whom have received an A-rating from the NRA – said their proposal would not have prevented the Newtown slaying, but by closing this huge loophole in the law, it could have prevented future Newtowns. The compromise looked promising just a few days ago, but the NRA’s frantic disinformation campaign paid off in the end. The day before the vote, Manchin said hopes for passage looked grim.
The NRA once again proved it is out of step with most Americans. Its immovable stance is sustained by members who take as gospel the group’s tired refrain that any additional checks will lead to a federal gun registry and eventual gun confiscation. It also perpetuated the myth this new law would have prevented family members from transferring gun ownership to others in the family.
This measure expressly prohibited the keeping of a gun registry. It would not have kept anyone legally eligible to purchase a gun from purchasing a gun. It also would not have prevented a father from giving a gun to his son.
After the vote, Patricia Maisch, who was present two years ago when a gunman in Tucson, Ariz., killed six people and wounded 13 others, including former Rep. Gabrielle Gifford, rose from her seat in the Senate gallery and shouted, “Shame on you” to the senators.
Often attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius is this appropriate piece of advice:
“To know what is right and not to do it, is the worst cowardice.”
That worst type of cowardice was on display Wednesday in the chamber of the U.S. Senate.