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After the tragedy that befell Newtown Dec. 14 - 28 people dead, 20 of them children, six their teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary School - there were expectations that this time the debate on gun control would be different. This time there would be substantial change. It appears those expectations will prove unfounded, at least in Washington.
While the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a series of reasonable gun control measures last week, 10-8 on a straight party line vote - Democrats in favor, Republicans against - the proposals appear to have little chance of winning approval in the Senate and no chance in the House. Once again it looks like the powerful gun lobby will prevail.
Polling shows support for the measures approved by the Senate committee - reinstating and expanding the ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004 and expanding background checks to include private gun sales. But most Republicans, and a significant number of Democrats, fear the National Rifle Association and the damage that special interest group can do to their re-election chances should they support even modest gun control proposals.
Rob Goodlatte, the Virginia Republican who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, opposes requiring universal background checks and says he won't bring it up for a vote. The assault weapons ban is even less likely to get to a vote in the House and could face a filibuster in the Senate.
We join President Obama in his demand for a vote. At the very least, senators and congressmen should go on record on these gun-control issues and then defend their votes at election time.
Until the politics change, the only chance for approval of substantial gun control legislation may come at the state level. That has been seen in several states already and we are confident Connecticut, where the horror that renewed the debate happened, will do likewise.
But it may take another federal election for voters to send the message to their congressman and senators that it is not only the NRA they have to fear.