While the nation is reeling from the horror of violence at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, legislators in Washington have let an opportunity to curb further mayhem slip through their fingers.
The bipartisan compromise legislation to expand mandatory background checks for gun sales failed in the United States Senate, with 56 votes in favor and 46 opposed, short of the 60 votes it required. It is a deeply unfortunate development not to mention a significant defeat for a major initiative of President Obama’s second term.
The legislation was anchored in a compromised crafter between senators Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, in a modest plan to to expand background checks for gun buyers.
Despite the chilling tragedy of the killings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, the heartbreaking death of Hadiya Pendleton in Chicago and so many more senseless deaths by gun violence, the Republican right in Congress has still refrained from taking a position that most of America has already embraced: Background checks represent nothing more than common sense.
The point was made with stunning clarity in a CNN special report on gun sales. In that significant piece of investigative reporting, their network colleagues were able to purchase thousands of dollars’ worth of firearms, including semi-automatic weapons at gun shows around the country. In no case were they asked their names or asked for identification.
Gun violence has proven to be highly indiscriminant. It has devastated communities in middle-class suburbs and on hardscrabble inner-city streets. It has shattered the lives of the virtually unknown citizens and members of Congress. Old or young, Black, Latino or white, rich or poor, no American seems to be free from the toxicity of gun violence.
The fact that so many members of Congress are tone deaf regarding a measure that is supported by more than 90 percent of Americans is the most confounding aspect of this public policy issue. So many Republicans are lacking the fortitude to vote for a watered-down measure that is far from radical gun-control legislation.
One can only hope that the families of the Newtown victims, the family of Hadiya Pendleton and so many others who have felt the sting of gun violence will continue and even redouble their efforts to raise public consciousness and persuade the Republican right to turn a blind eye to the hyperbole and misinformation of the National Rifle Association. It would be a fitting honor to those whose lives were lost.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Senate Television)