Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Last Call

As widely expected, Sen. Dianne Feinstein's assault weapons ban legislation is officially toast.  Majority leader Harry Reid is taking it out of the Dems' gun violence package and will be putting it forward as an amendment, where it will meet an ignominious demise.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said on Monday that a controversial assault weapons ban will not be part of a Democratic gun bill that was expected to reach the Senate floor 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.

The smarter folks long predicted this, as I pointed out in January.  But with the assault weapons ban gone, Dems can now get to the real meat of the bill:  firearms trafficking penalties and universal background checks.

There are two likely paths: Reid could advance a gun trafficking bill with a school safety provision; some form of background checks and the assault weapons ban would then be offered as amendments. In the other scenario, Reid might offer a background checks bill that includes the gun trafficking and school safety provisions, with assault weapons again offered as an amendment.

The Judiciary panel also approved a bipartisan gun trafficking bill backed by Leahy, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), among others, that dramatically boosts penalties for “straw purchases”of weapons, in which a person buys firearms on behalf of an individual barred by law from possessing them. Thanks to its support from Republicans, Reid and Leahy want to see this bill as a foundation for the Democratic gun package on the floor.

But Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are continuing to seek conservative GOP partners for their universal background checks bill. The two Democrats negotiated with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on the issue for weeks, but in the end that deal fell apart. Schumer and Manchin are meeting with other Republicans to seek their backing, yet they have not been able to find a partner. Kirk, a moderate, is likely to be part of whatever legislation Schumer and Manchin introduce. 

All this vote wrangling is nice.  Nothing will pass the House.  It would cost Boehner his job as Speaker.  It probably won't get a vote, or worse, we'll have the House pass some crackpot NRA bill and then nothing happens.  Here's the sad part:  an assault weapons ban has no chance because our Congress is bought and paid for by the NRA, and there's not a gorram thing you can do about it. We had an assault weapons ban.  It died.

Just like the tens of thousands killed in firearms violence by these weapons.

We're still paying for 2010, folks.  It's a big, big bill.  But not as big as the butcher's bill for firearm violence in America.

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