Another Tragedy, But More Excuses Not to Act

Despite senseless violence, the Senate can't take the simplest of gun control steps.

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Sen. Joe Manchin believes the issue of gun control will return to Capitol Hill this year, but Sen. Patrick Toomey's office seems to think it's over.
Sen. Joe Manchin believes the issue of gun control will return to Capitol Hill this year, but Sen. Patrick Toomey's office seems to think it's over.

Once again, our country has been rocked with an unthinkable act of violence ... a senseless act in Boston on a day that is normally filled with stories of personal triumphs and jubilee. Sadly, it left us asking the all-too familiar questions: Why, and how can this be prevented from happening again?

Literally, at the same time as tweets about the Boston bombs were making their way around twitter-world, we were learning that the likelihood for passage of enhanced gun safety legislation appeared to be crumbling. This was legislation born out of reaction to another recent act of senseless violence – the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. Senator after Senator announced their opposition to the Manchin/Toomey amendment that would expand background checks on gun purchases to private and internet sales, an amendment that proposes solutions to address and answer some of those lingering questions. 

[See a collection of editorial cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

One of the NRA's arguments against the amendment is that the current background checks system is ineffective, so it makes no sense to try and expand it. But part of the reason for its uneven performance is the systematic efforts that have been made over the years by the NRA to chip away at its effectiveness. Time and time again, legislative language has been attached to large appropriation bills that undercut its background checks enforcement.

The NRA has only supported background checks as a way to stop efforts allowing for a five-day waiting period and only for federally-licensed gun dealers. They have never favored expansion to private sales and have sought and continue to seek to undermine such a measure at every step.

A recent study, Blinded, With One Hand Tied Behind The Back, published by the Center for American Progress, found that "no other area of federal law enforcement suffers from so many legislative barriers to action." One specific rider prevents the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm (ATF) from computerizing it current records. Ludicrous as it sounds, it forces them to store the information in boxes and microfiche.

[PHOTOS: Deadly Explosions Hit Boston Marathon]

Senators Manchin and Toomey understand that the current laws needs be strengthened and expanded if we are going to try and stop the flow of guns getting into the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable. Manchin recently said, "We have that opportunity, and, God help us, if we don't do it."

In order to gain support for the Manchin/Toomey amendment, it has been reported in Politico that the authors will seek further compromises. But, it's important to remember that this amendment already represents significantly scaled-back solutions for gun safety advocates, which additionally sought bans on certain types of assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips. Any further compromises will once again erode its effectiveness and perpetuate the NRA's argument that background checks don't work.

It appears that too many politicians would rather just maintain the status quo – a status quo in which in 9 out of 10 gun crimes, the gun used did not belong to the original purchaser. They have heard from family members, who have spent the last week on Capitol Hill holding photos of their love ones lost in the tragedies in Newton, at Virginia Tech, Columbine, Aurora, and Tucson, and said, essentially, "my reelection and support from the NRA is more important to me than finding solutions to prevent more tragedies and suffering. I don't care to answer your particular questions."

  • Read Anson Kaye: What I Know About Boston That the Terrorists Never Will
  • Read Peter Roff: A Father's Reflections After a Tragedy
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