If the true purpose of our elected officials in Washington, D.C., is to represent their constituents, then many of those in the U.S. Senate have let us down.
Whether they kowtowed to the National Rifle Association or they truly worried the government would compile a list of gun owners (which it is prohibited from doing) or they truly saw background checks as an infringement on their Second Amendment rights, they failed us.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate blocked the Manchin-Toomey amendment to expand background checks on firearms by a 54-46 vote. Although the 54 senators in favor of it exceeded a simple majority, it needed 60 votes to break a filibuster threat.
The amendment by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., wasn't perfect - it still exempted private sales - but it had the bipartisan support that the original bill, which called for universal background checks, lacked. Other amendments, including an assault weapons ban and a high-capacity gun magazine ban, also failed to get the 60-vote threshold.
A minority of senators, including Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, blocked the background check amendment, which the majority of senators, including Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, supported.
This is your representative, democratic government at work. It is flawed. Expanded background checks would not have impinged on the Second Amendment rights of any law-abiding gun owner
Plus, poll after poll has shown that the vast majority of Americans favor background checks for weapons purchases. A CBS poll showed more than 90 percent support it. A St. Norbert College/Wisconsin Public Radio poll showed 89 percent of Wisconsinites backed it.
Yet our political system is so out of whack that the senators who blocked the amendment failed to do the will of those they represent.
An angry President Barack Obama on Wednesday called it "a pretty shameful day for Washington" and said the bipartisan amendment that exhibited "moderation and common sense," two attributes sorely lacking in Congress these days.
The Manchin-Toomey amendment didn't go far enough in our view, but it was better than nothing.
Granted background checks might not have prevented the murders of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. But a universal background check might have prevented a Brown Deer man from killing his wife and two other women at a Milwaukee-area spa in October. He had privately purchased the gun after a restraining order had been issued and after he had been ordered to turn in all his weapons.
No measure will stop all gun-related deaths. But if a background check on all gun purchases stops one death, it will have been worth it, and the law-abiding gun owners will not have had their rights infringed upon.
Congress needs to get some courage and expand background checks.