Lost in the week of Boston-bombing chaos was a gutsy announcement by Maine U.S. Sen. Susan Collins that she supported extending background checks to people buying guns at gun shows and privately advertised sales.
The bill, titled the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013, was ultimately pulled when a variety of less-courageous senators decided they could not stand the pressure from the National Rifle Association and other groups.
That failure came despite polls showing a majority of Americans supported the measure.
Collins was one of only four Republicans to support the act, and the only Republican from such a rural state. She was also the only one up for re-election in 2014.
The bill was shamelessly misrepresented by gun groups and even members of the Senate in the days before an expected vote.
It would have extended background checks to gun shows and private party sales involving an advertisement.
Yet, some insisted on repeating several outright lies. Among them:
* that the bill would establish a gun registry, despite language in the bill making that illegal and even establishing a criminal penalty for doing so;
* that the bill would require a background check if a gun was sold to a family member, friend or relative, which it clearly did not; and
* that it would forbid veterans and others from owning guns if they sought mental health counseling, which it did not.
"They were just getting talking points from somebody, whether it be staff or someone (else) trying to find any little wiggle room that they could find to change the interpretation," said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a co-sponsor of the measure and a longtime supporter of gun rights.
Politically, Collins knows it would have been easier to go with the flow or to have remained silent until actually forced to vote on the bill.
After her announcement, the National Association for Gun Rights began running TV spots in Maine denouncing her stand and repeating the aforementioned lies about the measure.
It included a distasteful video sequence of Collins' head morphing into that of President Barack Obama.
Most Mainers realize that Collins has been far from an Obama clone on a wide variety of issues.
Gun-rights opponents are correct that the background-check bill would not have stopped the Newtown school massacre. But, as hard as it is to believe, we have a much larger gun problem than school shootings.
Since Newtown, more than 3,637 people in the U.S. have been killed by guns.
Even recognizing that 60 percent of those are suicides (which is a problem in and of itself), that means most of the 1,455 other deaths were homicides along with a far smaller number of accidents.
Right now, anyone seeking a gun from a licensed firearm dealer must pass a background check.
But anyone, whether they are a convicted felon or a person who has been involuntarily committed for mental illness, can buy a gun at a gun show, from the Internet or from a classified ad in Uncle Henry's.
Sen. Angus King also voted for the background-check bill, but he had less at stake than Collins. As an independent, he will not face a primary challenger and, being a left-leaning centrist, his base of support is less gun-sensitive.
The political risk for Collins is that she will face a challenger from the right.
That has been the fate of several moderate members of Congress over the past two election cycles. Some very popular Republicans have been defeated by far-right conservatives who then lost in the general election.
But Collins has built strong support on both sides of the aisle, and Maine is a moderate state that seems to ultimately remember and value the sort of independence Collins showed last week.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.