The parents of Newtown lost again. So did the vast majority of Americans.
Four months ago, as the nation mourned 20 first-graders and the brave teachers who tried to shield them, the gun lobby's grip on Washington was shaken. But as the shameful votes Wednesday in the Senate demonstrated, it wasn't broken.
With semiautomatic efficiency, senators shot down expanded background checks, size limits for ammunition magazines and a ban on civilian ownership of military-style assault weapons.
Most surprising — and least defensible — was the rejection of universal background checks. This bipartisan compromise, carefully crafted by two senators who own firearms, would have extended a routine practice at retail outlets to gun shows, the Internet and other venues where people who can't acquire guns legally do their shopping. In recent polls, this plan was favored by a 9-1 margin.
How often do 90 percent of Americans agree on any political issue?
But that wasn't enough. Neither was a 54-vote majority, because nothing moves in the Senate without 60 votes — the number needed to break a filibuster — in this era of partisanship run amok.
The result: Supporters of a modest attempt to keep guns away from criminals and people judged to be mentally unstable were again outgunned by the National Rifle Association and its allies, among them Sen. Charles Grassley.
"Criminals don't submit to background checks now," the Iowa Republican said. "They will not submit to expanded background checks."
By that logic, what's the point of outlawing murder or bank robbery or anything else? Criminals ignore other laws, too.
An angry President Barack Obama, standing alongside the parents of some of Newtown's young victims, spoke for tens of millions of Americans who expected more of their elected leaders.
"Who are we here to represent?" Obama asked. "I've heard folks say that having families of victims lobby for this legislation was somehow misplaced. A prop somebody called them. Emotional blackmail some outlets said. Are they serious? Do we really think that thousands of families whose lives have been shattered by gun violence do not have a right to weigh in on this issue?"
America has a tradition of gun ownership, protected by the Second Amendment. But, as most Americans understand, and the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed, it isn't absolute. Among other things, federal law already requires background checks on many sales. Many states have their own restrictions, including several enacted since Newtown.
Given a chance to close a loophole that benefits criminals without harming law-abiding citizens, most Republicans and a handful of Democrats in the Senate went along with bizarre conspiracies peddled by the NRA, a group that once endorsed background checks. But this wasn't about gun registration; the amendment specifically prohibited it. And it wasn't about seizing firearms; that's fearmongering of the worst kind.
"There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn't do this," Obama said. "It came down to politics." And voters should take note of who voted for and against public safety.