You'd think that if there was one step both parties in Washington could support in the wake of the nation's worst mass shooting, it would be to close a yawning gap in federal gun background checks — a strategy supported by nearly 90% of Americans.
Yet in an extraordinary act of cowardice on Monday evening, 56 senators — 53 Republicans joined by three Democrats — threw away yet another opportunity to keep guns out of the hands of more felons, fugitives, the mentally ill or people prone to domestic violence.
These spineless lawmakers voted against advancing a commonsense measure to expand background checks to virtually all sales of guns, not just those sold by federally licensed dealers. The existing gap allows buyers who purchase from private sellers at gun shows, online or from newspaper ads to simply avoid the federal background check system.
That system, run by the FBI, is efficient for buyers: More than nine of 10 gun buyers get a yes or no within minutes. And the system is effective for screening out those barred by federal law from buying firearms: It has denied guns to 2.4 millionprospective buyers since it was created in 1994. The largest category is felons and people who've committed serious misdemeanors.
This was the third time since the fatal shooting of 20 first-graders in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 that the Senate has derailed similar measures. (Senators also rejected three other gun amendments on Monday.)
Would expanding background checks be a panacea? Of course not. The Orlando killer, a security guard, was able to purchase his guns legally. But no one should buy into the absurd notion, pushed by the gun lobby, that to be worthwhile a measure must demonstrate that it could have prevented the most recent atrocity or all mass murders.
I'll say this again for the cheap seats: nothing will happen until lawmakers start getting voted out of office for supporting the NRA. Until that happens, nothing will get done on background checks, nothing will pass on smart gun technology, nothing will happen on weapon or clip/magazine restrictions nationally.
Yes, 90% of Americans support background checks. The 10% who don't have enough power in the Senate from low-population red states to prevent anything from ever being signed into law. Until that changes, nothing will get done, and you can copy and paste this editorial after the next bloody, hideous mass shooting. And the next. And the one after that.
And all the rest that will come.