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Senate votes down Feinstein's assault weapons ban

April 17, 2013|By Richard Simon
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) uses a poster of weapons as she speaks about gun legislation on the floor of the Senate.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) uses a poster of weapons as she speaks… (Associated Press )

WASHINGTON — In a final appeal to her colleagues to reinstate an assault weapons ban, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) displayed on the Senate floor Wednesday a New York Daily News front page from the day after her ban was pulled from a broader gun control bill: It shows the photos of the 20 first-graders shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School with the headline: “Shame on U.S.”

And then, Feinstein told her colleagues, “Show some guts.”

But her attempt to attach the ban to the gun bill failed, drawing just 40 votes, with 60 senators voting against it.

That was fewer than the 52 votes she received in 2004 in her unsuccessful effort to renew the now-lapsed 1994 ban.

PHOTOS: The debate over gun control

Feinstein knew the measure was doomed even before the vote and complained about the “lack of courage” in the chamber.

The vote was a stinging setback for Feinstein, who urged fellow senators to stand with law enforcement officers and victims of gun violence to “take these weapons of war off our streets.”

Feinstein won the backing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who had previously voted against renewing the ban. But 15 of her fellow Democrats, including a number from Western states, and one independent voted against the ban, as did all Republicans except Sen. Mark Steven Kirk of Illinois.

“This ban would do little to prevent future gun violence,” said Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), calling it ironic that “proponents think these weapons are a problem in the hands of law-abiding citizens, but apparently see no problem with these same weapons being glorified in Hollywood movies and video games.”

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) attacked the measure as a “slippery slope of compromising the 2nd Amendment.”

WHO THEY WERE: Newtown shooting victims

The controversial measure was doomed when Reid decided last month to leave it out of the broader gun control bill, saying that it would endanger more widely supported measures and was likely to win fewer than 40 votes in the 100-member chamber. 

“Not every issue we vote on in the Senate is a life or death matter. I deeply believe this is,” Feinstein told colleagues Wednesday. “The most important duty a government has is to protect its citizens’ safety. When 20 beautiful first-graders are slaughtered, our government has failed that duty.”

She displayed on the Senate floor a photo of a San Francisco police officer shot to death in 2004 by an AK-47 and spoke about the 1993 rampage in a San Francisco office building that left eight people dead and six wounded.

“If only California or New York bans assault weapons, nothing stops an individual from buying an assault weapon in a neighboring state, then crossing the border to commit violence,” Feinstein said.

She predicted that Congress’ failure to act would spur a number of states to pass their own assault weapons bans. “That will result in a confusing patchwork of laws,” she said.

After the vote, Feinstein said she was disappointed, but vowed to continue her fight. “I believe the American people are far ahead of their elected officials on this issue,” she said.

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richard.simon@latimes.com

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