Updated 11:06 pm, Monday, December 17, 2012
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who led the charge for a federal assault weapons ban after a San Francisco massacre left nine people dead two decades ago, is again at the forefront of the battle over guns with her call for new legislation in the wake of the mass shooting that killed 20 schoolchildren in Connecticut.
But prospects for any new legislation are uncertain as the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired eight years ago for lack of support from Washington lawmakers of either major party. The gun lobby is expected to resist legislative proposals, while lawmakers may be reluctant to take up the issue in earnest.
As the slain elementary school students are buried this week, Feinstein will face pressure to deliver legislation, particularly from fellow Democrats who are fed up with the bloodshed. The victims in Friday’s rampage were shot multiple times by a gunman armed with semiautomatic weapons.
While Feinstein has registered outrage again and again after mass gun violence – from the shootings at Columbine and Aurora, Colo., to Oakland’s Oikos University – she has failed to gain support to reinstate the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which was signed by President Bill Clinton.
On Monday, she confirmed that she will introduce legislation in the new Congress in January that would ban more than 100 specific firearms, including semiautomatic rifles, handguns and shotguns, while exempting more than 900 other weapons.
“I intend, one way or the other, to get that bill through,” she told MSNBC.
Feinstein’s move has already won support from pro-gun Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who as a candidate received backing from the National Rifle Association.
But others concede that California’s senior senator faces daunting hurdles: a powerful gun lobby, a compliant Congress and a president unwilling to use muscle to push the issue in his first term.
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