US gun laws: Congress is tinkering with a broken system

Customers look at rifles for sale at the Bullet Hole gun shop in Sarasota, Florida Photo: REUTERS/Brian Blanco

It is 118 days since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and finally, belatedly, the US Senate has voted on gun control.

Has it banned assault weapons?

Has Congress abolished those absurd high-capacity magazines that are the psychopath's best friend?

Have American politicians finally heard the pleas of grieving parents and broken-hearted families?

Not a bit of it.

Tributes left to the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut Credit: REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Today's vote is procedural. It is a vote to BEGIN a debate on gun control.

The reality in this politically dysfunctional town is that significant reform is out of reach.

The best that can be hoped for is an expanded system of background checks on weapon purchases, closing some of the more obvious loopholes.

It is tinkering with a broken system, and it will be a massive disappointment to the Sandy Hook families.

President Obama speaks to Nicole Hockley, the mother of the six-year-old Briton Dylan who died at Sandy Hook Credit: The White House

But the parallel development is even more disturbing: A feeding-frenzy of buyers descending on gun stores in anticipation of the vote. A nation-wide run on ammunition and a huge backlog of orders for assault weapons.

This is not the Senate's finest hour.

The New York Daily News puts it this way: "Four months [after Sandy Hook] and Washington has added the hope of a caring nation to the roster of casualties."

Every day, 34 people in America die as a result of gun violence on average.

As we asked ourselves in Newtown on 14th December 2012: If this doesn't change America's gun culture, what will?

We are getting close to the answer: Nothing will.