Dianne Feinstein’s lonely anti-gun crusade

Harry Reid drops her assault weapons ban from the Democratic gun-control package as the NRA cheers

Topics: assault weapons ban, Newtown school shooting, Dianne Feinstein, Gun Control, Editor's Picks, ,

Dianne Feinstein’s lonely anti-gun crusadeSenator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (Credit: Reuters/Hyungwon Kang)

Everyone knew that Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s assault weapons ban was going to be the toughest gun-control reform to achieve in the wake of the Newtown massacre. Although it passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week on a party line vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told Feinstein last night that it won’t be part of the still-undefined gun control package he’ll bring to the Senate floor. Feinstein is free to introduce her bill, which bans 157 models of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as an amendment to the package, but it will almost certainly fail.

“People say, well aren’t you disappointed; I say, of course I’m disappointed,” a visibly frustrated Feinstein told reporters (including Salon’s Alex Seitz Wald) Tuesday afternoon. “Because if it was in a package it would take 60 votes to get it out.” She suggested asking Reid directly about his reasoning, and a little while later, Reid obliged. “Using the most optimistic numbers,” the Senate leader insisted, the assault weapons ban has less than 40 votes. “That’s not 60.”

Still, dumping the ban from the Democrats’ official package is a sign that the NRA still holds sway over Democrats. Clearly Reid cares more about red-state Democrats beholden to the gun lobby than he does about gun safety. Remember, this is the same NRA-backed Reid who put an amendment in the Affordable Care Act declaring that wellness and prevention efforts should not collect or disseminate information about whether patients had guns in their home.

Feinstein has had some of her finest moments on gun safety issues, most recently dressing down the insufferable Ted Cruz, who lectured her on why an assault weapons ban is unconstitutional. “I am not a sixth grader,” Feinstein told the arrogant mansplainer. “Congress is in the business of making the law. The Supreme Court interprets the law. If they strike down the law, they strike down the law.”

As a San Francisco County supervisor in 1978, Feinstein found the body of Harvey Milk after he and Mayor George Moscone were shot by Dan White. In 1994 she successfully pushed for an assault weapons ban after a massacre at a San Francisco high-rise killed nine people and injured six. “I’ve worked 40 years on these issues — guns. I’ve seen so much violence,” a shaken Feinstein told reporters today.

You Might Also Like

Compromise-oriented Democrats say dropping the ban gives a gun-control package far more chance of passing. At the Plum Line, Greg Sargent argues that the ban was a bargaining chip on the way to a push for universal background checks. But background check legislation passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the exact same 10-8 party-line vote as the assault weapons ban. Sen. Chuck Schumer talks optimistically about finding GOP partners, but early discussions with Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn fell apart, and there are currently no Republican senators on record supporting background checks, either. Talking to TPM, Reid refused to commit to putting background checks in the bill, either. “I am working to put something together that I can get 60 votes to put a bill on the floor,” he said.

We could ultimately wind up with Democrat-sponsored legislation that merely toughens penalties for so-called straw man gun purchases and beefs up school safety. That would be a shame. For a while it felt like the outrage over Newtown would be more transformative than that inspired by other gun carnage. But it seems NRA lobbyist Bob Welch was right when he said the organization would prevail once “the Connecticut effect” passed.

Contrast Senate Democrats’ equivocation with the courage of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. Immediately after the Aurora shootings, which used formerly banned assault weapons, Hickenlooper downplayed the need for a renewed ban.  “If there were no assault weapons available and no this or no that, this guy is going to find something, right?” But after Newtown, Hickenlooper found religion. On Wednesday he’s expected to sign a state background check bill plus a ban on magazines larger than 15 rounds, despite ferocious opposition from state Republicans and the NRA.

Sadly, it’s going to take more mass murders with assault weapons to strengthen politicians’ spines.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>