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Dianne Feinstein: Colorado shooting raises gun violence issue

July 20, 2012|By Mark Z. Barabak
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles…)

In all the reams of reaction over the cinema shootings in Aurora, Colo., California Sen. Dianne Feinstein was one of the few to introduce politics—albeit glancingly--into the national outpouring of sadness.

“It is with great sorrow that I follow the news of today’s tragedy in Colorado,” Feinstein said in a written statement. “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of this senseless violence.

“Today is a time for grieving," Feinstein went on, “but my hope is the country will also reflect on the roots of gun violence that has again visited terror on an American community, claiming the lives of more innocents.”

Feinstein’s outspokenness is not surprising. It fits her persona. But it also reflects the role that gun violence has played in her decades-long political career.

A longtime champion of gun control, Feinstein was the principle sponsor of a 1994 nationwide assault weapons ban, which has since expired despite Feinstein’s outspoken support.

Even earlier, gun violence played a crucial role in Feinstein’s political rise. In 1978, she was president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors but had decided to leave politics after a losing run for mayor. She was at City Hall when Dan White, a former supervisor, shot and killed Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. Moscone’s assassination vaulted Feinstein into the San Francisco mayor’s office and revived her political career.

She recounted that dramatic day in a charged exchange during the Senate fight over the assault weapons ban, after then-Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho suggested that the "gentle-lady from California" needed to become "a little bit more familiar with firearms and their deadly characteristics."

"Senator,” she replied witheringly, “I know something about what firearms can do.”

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