When Dianne Feinstein (D-Democratic Republic of California) proposed a ban on so-called assault weapons as part of a broader gun control bill, she thought she had two things going for her: public support post-Newtown, and support from her party’s leadership in the Senate. Turns out, she had neither.
Widespread public support for all-out bans of the kind DiFi was advocating is simply not there. (It didn’t help that the legislation for which she is most known—the 1994 assault weapons ban—was useless, ineffective, and an unnecessary infringement of the Second Amendment.) So this time, when Harry Reid sampled his party in the Senate, he didn’t find anywhere near the number of votes needed to pass the bill with the ban. The assault weapons ban “has less than 40 votes,” said Reid. “That’s not 60.” The truth is, the assault weapons ban was so unpopular that it risked deep-sixing everything else in the bill, because it also turns out that DiFi knows little to nothing about either guns or the Second Amendment.
Reid also saw a number of Democratic Senators from red states with big gun cultures and significant opposition to gun control—-Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia—all facing tough reelection fights next year. So he pulled DiFi’s beloved assault weapons ban out of the bigger bill, which means certain death for it when it comes to the floor in a separate vote. Ah, that shrewd Reid: knowing it was going to fail, he pulled it, scheduled a separate vote on it, and when it goes down, the remaining major provision—broadening background checks—will look reasonable by comparison. And those at-risk Democrat Senators will get to vote “nay” on the ban while voting for the more moderate-looking alternative. Clever, right? Reid ain’t just a pretty face.
After Reid broke the news to her and the demise of the weapons ban became public, Di Fi said, “The enemies on this are very powerful. I’ve known that all my life.” And with so many things in America these days, the enemy is within.
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