Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introducing legislation in January to ban assault weapons. She said Tuesday she will not reintroduce the failed legislation following this week’s masscre in Washington, D.C.
MANUEL BALCE CENETA, ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON – In the aftermath of the mass shooting in southeast Washington, D.C., Monday morning, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she would not revive her legacy bill banning assault weapons, citing obstacles on the political front too big to overcome.
“I’ve been with this issue for 40 years, so I am prepared to but it makes no sense right now,” Feinstein told the Register Tuesday afternoon, “unless I know there are 20 more votes in the Senate. … When the votes turn around is when I know enough is enough; that people here are willing to stand up and do what the right thing is.”
Gun control policy has been a central issue for Feinstein on Capitol Hill since 1993, when she led the charge to ban military-style semi-automatic weapons, called “assault weapons,” from sale to the public. A year later, the measure passed as an amendment to another bill that restricted the sale of larger-capacity magazines and some semi-automatic weapons.
In 2004, when the act was set to expire, Feinstein introduced an amendment to a bill that would have extended the 1994 provisions, but it ultimately failed as critics questioned the effectiveness of the ban and the impact on citizens’ Second-Amendment rights. Since then, she has tried to restore the old law as new tragedies occurred, including the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting and the Newtown, Conn., school shooting in 2012. In April, her drive to attach an assault weapons ban to a gun bill failed in the Senate.
Unfortunately, Feinstein said, a law banning these weapons will only come when new members of Congress are elected without being influenced by the National Rifle Association, the biggest gun-rights advocate in the country.
“What happens is, it becomes a recruiting tool for the NRA, so if I didn’t think I had a chance to pass it, why would I do it? So I’ve become convinced that the only thing that’s going to change this, really, are elections,” Feinstein said.
“Until you elect people who are willing to go against the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America, and say, ‘We want a moderate program to see that weapons are registered and certain military weapons are kept under control and out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,’ we’re not going to go anywhere. So, I’m not interested in being just a recruiting tool,” she said.
Feinstein’s assessment was echoed by others. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Tuesday that gun-control legislation is unlikely to gain any traction in the Republican-controlled House. “So, yes, I think (the Navy Yard shootings) will bring up debate; whether it will bring up action is problematic,” Hoyer said. “If ‘the past is prologue,’ our prologue is not very hopeful.”
President Barack Obama has made a few narrow administrative changes, but those are not likely to alter the kinds of guns most often found at crime scenes.
Obama said Tuesday he was concerned that an American ritual could emerge where every few months, the nation suffers a horrific mass shooting, then fails to take action to stop the next one from occurring. He said he would continue speaking out about the need for new gun laws, but that ultimately, it’s up to lawmakers.
“I’ve taken steps that are within my control,” Obama said in an interview with Telemundo. “The next phase now is for Congress to go ahead and move.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D.-W.Va., the author of a bill on background checks, both said they would like to see a vote on the background checks bill, but the votes aren’t there for passage at this time.
Feinstein observed, “Nothing is sacrosanct, no one can really feel protection because anyone can just walk in do clearly what was done at the Navy Yard. You would think, after all, is a fairly well protected place.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.
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