Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban All But Dead

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As lawmakers passed Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) assault weapons ban bill through the judiciary committee on a party-line vote last Thursday, they were under no illusions about its slim chance of approval in the full Senate. Politico reports the bill’s death knell may have sounded Monday night as Feinstein learned in a meeting that her legislation won’t even be part of the gun-control bill Democrats plan to introduce for a vote next month:

After a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday, a frustrated Feinstein said she learned that the bill she sponsored — which bans 157 different models of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines — wouldn’t be part of a Democratic gun bill to be offered on the Senate floor. Instead, it can be offered as an amendment. But its exclusion from the package makes what was already an uphill battle an almost certain defeat.

Reid’s decision highlights the tightrope walked by the majority leader in governing the gun control issue. Trapped between the White House and rank-and-file Democrats who support broad gun control legislation following the shootings last December in Newtown, Conn., Reid must also be mindful of red-state Democrats up for reelection in 2014 who favor gun rights.

And the decision to drop the assault weapons ban from the package illustrates the fact that any big changes to gun control legislation will still be challenging.

As Politico notes, the assault weapons ban could still reach the Senate floor as an amendment to Democrats’ gun-control package, which may be finalized as soon as this week. The pre-amendment legislation may include increased penalties for straw purchases of trafficked guns and provisions intended to improve school safety. It’s less likely to include the ban on high-capacity magazines that’s also a part of Feinstein’s bill, or universal background checks, which also passed the judiciary committee on a party-line vote.

Senate Republicans have been reluctant to support any gun-control measures beyond increased penalties for gun traffickers, and would be expected to filibuster a bill that lacks bipartisan support.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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