Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) dropped the assault weapons ban from that chamber's gun control bill. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), announced the change, but indicated that she would still be able to offer it as an amendment later on. Reid's change of heart indicates that he lacks congressional support to get the measure passed, despite the fact that the ban was approved last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee. It also signals that Reid is concerned about the ban's impact on the 2014 election. By making it a separate issue, moderate Democrats facing reelection in red or red-leaning states can vote against the ban, yet still support the remaining parts of the Democratic agenda on gun control.
The Senate will begin debate on the rest of the bill next month.
Even with the ban as a separate issue, Feinstein faces an uphill battle in getting her measure passed. The Senate has 53 Democrats and two Independents who vote with them most of the time. Yet an assault weapons ban, stronger than the one enacted in 1994 that expired a decade later, will more than likely need 60 votes to prevail. Republicans are solidly against the measure, along with some moderate Democrats who would likely join them.
Nevertheless, Reid assured Feinstein there would be two separate votes. One would be on the assault weapons ban, which also prohibits magazines with a capacity greater than ten bullets. The other would be a vote solely prohibiting the ammo clips.
In addition to approving the assault weapons ban, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved three other measures: expanding the required federal background checks for firearms buyers; increasing federal penalties for illegal weapons trafficking; and boosting funds for school safety programs.
When Reid was asked why the ban was dropped he revealed that "using the most optimistic numbers," Feinstein's ban garnered less than 40 votes. Since 60 votes are necessary to begin debate on gun control legislation, Reid was fearful that the controversial measure might derail the entire process. "I'm not going to try to put something on the floor that won't succeed. I want something that will succeed. I think the worst of all worlds would be to bring something to the floor and it dies there," Reid explained.
The real reason Feinstein's ban died is because it's not only worthless, it's counterproductive. That reality was best illuminated in February by Independent Firearm Owners Association (IFOA) president Richard Feldman. “Senator Feinstein makes a mockery of the President’s efforts and good intentions," said Feldman. He continued:
Whether she does it intentionally or as an unintended consequence of her so-called ‘assault weapons ban, makes no difference. She is sabotaging the possibility of respectful and responsible dialogue. Her way polarizes the public into two warring camps. Worse, she is attempting to divert the attention of Congress and the nation from the real problem at hand. That problem, as President Obama so correctly pointed out, is keeping firearms, all firearms, out of the hands of prohibited persons.
The effort to get gun control legislation through Congress was engendered by the slaughter of 20 schoolchildren and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CN, a horrific crime that shocked the nation. Yet the most recent news released about killer Adam Lanza reveals an unprecedented level of psychological illness, coupled with what law enforcement officials believe was an insane desire to be the greatest mass murderer of all time. Investigators discovered a spreadsheet 7 feet long and 4 feet wide containing research about other mass murders and attempted murders so detailed, one law enforcement official likened it to a doctoral thesis. “We were told he had around 500 people on this sheet,” a law enforcement veteran told Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News. “Names and the number of people killed and the weapons that were used, even the precise make and model of the weapons. It had to have taken years. It sounded like a doctoral thesis, that was the quality of the research.”
The official continued. “[The police] don’t believe this was just a spreadsheet. They believe it was a score sheet,” he revealed.
This was the work of a video gamer, and that it was his intent to put his own name at the very top of that list. They believe that he picked an elementary school because he felt it was a point of least resistance, where he could rack up the greatest number of kills...They have pictures from two years before, with the guy all strapped with weapons, posing with a pistol to his head. That’s the thing you have to understand: He had this laid out for years before.
Feinstein's assault weapons ban would not have prevented this tragedy.
In reality, the Newtown atrocity highlights the fatal flaw of such a policy as Feinstein's, in that any restrictions on guns will only apply to those willing to obey the law. That explains why a city like Chicago, which has one of the toughest gun control laws in the nation, recorded more than 500 murders last year, mostly committed using handguns. None of this matters to Feinstein or any of the other staunch congressional supporters of gun control -- all of whom have armed security personnel. Feldman reminded Americans of Feinstein's overbearing hypocrisy. “When she was Mayor of San Francisco and banned handguns there, Ms. Feinstein surrendered her snub-nose .38, but neglected to announce that she chose to keep her .357 magnum pistol,” he revealed.
Yet what is one to make of the Obama administration's no-so-secret effort to purchase two billion of rounds of ammunition? Conspiracy theorists believe the government is anticipating societal collapse, resulting in nationwide insurrection. Far more likely, progressives are doing what they do best, namely, driving the cost of ammunition prohibitively high in order to impose de facto gun control.
Which brings us to the ultimate reason why an assault ban will likely remain on the sidelines permanently: people are fearful of government overreach. Despite the Newtown tragedy, 2012 was a banner year for gun sales, and the FBI conducted 16.8 million background checks, the highest number recorded since they began publishing such statistics in 1998.
Moreover, no matter what efforts are made to stuff the proverbial genie back in the bottle, it's too late. There are more than 300 million guns in circulation in America.
Removing Feinstein's ban from gun control legislation makes sense, even if it's done mostly for the politically cynical reason of protecting the Senate from Republican inroads, or even a takeover, in 2014. Far better to concentrate on measures such as universal background checks, and making illegal guns sales a federal crime, both of which are overwhelmingly supported by the public. Boosting safety measures for schools is likely popular as well.
All of this assumes the point is to actually get a bill of some sort passed--which means anything that gets through the Democratically-controlled Senate has to be at least somewhat palatable to the Republican-controlled House. There is no doubt the assault weapons ban was dead on arrival in that chamber. On the other hand, perhaps compromise on the rest of these measures is alive and well.
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.