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.