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Editorial: The Senate’s shame

Politics before all else.

That’s the message sent by every member of the United States Senate who voted this week against a small start in bringing some common sense to the issue of gun violence. Whether it was based upon fear of how the gun lobby might react or what the ramifications might be come the next election back home, these senators from both parties put their own interests above that of the nation.

Shameful, indeed.

This vote wasn’t some far-reaching intrusion into the lives of gun owners, whereby the federal government was plotting to take way their weapons or even asking all the people in this country who legally own their guns to register them through a national registry. The legislation wasn’t putting into place a limit on the size of a gun’s magazine or putting into the works a restriction on the speed or number of rounds that could be fired. Nor was it enacting a ban on those guns deemed assault weapons.

No, what these senators turned their backs on was an slight expansion of background checks in the buying of guns. By expanding background checks to cover online sales and gun show purchases, this proposal was a useful tool in preventing guns from getting into the hands of the mentally ill or criminals and not interfering in the lives of law-abiding citizens who are legal gun owners.

Wednesday, it didn’t matter that a majority of Americans, the people who the senators are supposed to be representing, support such a sensible step. It didn’t even matter that a majority — 54 — of senators backed the bipartisan measure crafted by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa. — two men, we should add, who get favorable ratings from the National Rifle Association — since everything in the Senate needs 60 votes these days to move forward.

As Manchin put it on the Senate floor, “I think there is a time in our life, a defining time in public service, when you know the facts are on your side and walk into the lion’s den.”

For all the talk of acting decisively in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook, these senators who voted against this effort revealed a cowardly streak — a label that we hope will follow them through the rest of their careers.

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