Immigrants take part in a U.S. naturalization ceremony in New York. | John Moore~Getty Images
Updated: May 19, 2013 7:38AM
The streets of Chicago are a long way from Washington. Nothing showed that more clearly than the U.S. Senate’s outrageous rejection Wednesday of a legislative measure that would have given our nation an essential anti-violence reform — universal background checks for people buying guns.
The measure, a centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s efforts to bring sanity to the nation’s gun laws, would have closed a loophole in which criminals and people with severe mental illnesses can freely buy guys in private sales, at gun shows or on the Internet. Now, background checks are required only on sales at federally licensed gun dealers.
After the vote, Obama, as passionate and angry as he’s ever been in public, called it “a pretty shameful day for Washington” and said the gun lobby and its allies “willfully lied” to stoke the opposition.
And so they did.
He also said he wouldn’t give up.
“I see this as just Round One,” he said.
And so it is.
Ninety percent of Americans are with the president on this one — and none of us should give up.
The measure, a compromise watered down from what Obama originally sought, actually got the support of a majority of senators, 54 to 46. But in the undemocratic logic of the Senate, 60 votes were needed for the amendment to be adopted.
Senate opponents — almost all Republicans — defended their obstinacy by saying anti-crime efforts should focus on criminals.
But that was just a cover.
Truth is, they were kissing the ring of the absurdly powerful National Rifle Association.
Wednesday’s votes came five months after the horror of Newtown, and three months after Hadiya Pendelton was gunned down in a Chicago park. But the bloodshed and heartache haven’t loosened the grip of the NRA, for which the roll call was a victory. The NRA, in turn, though it claimed it was standing tall for the Second Amendment, was doing the bald bidding of the gun manufacturers who throw money at the NRA.
Crusaders against gun violence say Wednesday’s roll call was not necessarily a final vote, and that this reform is very much alive.
“If we don’t get it today, we’ll get it eventually, because I think the American people are way ahead of their elected officials,” Vice President Joe Biden said before the vote during an online discussion with mayors. Others said there will be more votes in the Senate, and the results may be change.
Well, maybe they know something we don’t know. But Wednesday’s vote was a bad day for sensible gun laws, and a bad day for anybody tired of watching innocent children die.
To understand the stupidity of our current gun laws, one need look no further than Wednesday’s New York Times, where a front-page investigative story detailed how known criminals all over the country freely buy firearms on the Internet. With no background checks required, the Internet is a virtual open marketplace for anybody with the worst possible intentions.
These are the people 46 senators defended Wednesday with their votes.
On Wednesday, Obama called on voters to put pressure on their elected representatives, and if that doesn’t work, to carry the message into future elections.
Who runs this country? The NRA? Or the vast majority of Americans who have absolutely no problem with the idea of a simple background check to keep guns out of the hands of killers?
Round Two begins.