Leahy, Reid distancing themselves from assault-weapons ban

posted at 1:11 pm on January 30, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday, the Washington Post noted how badly Dianne Feinstein’s assault-weapons ban was faring on Capitol Hill.  Today, it’s NBC’s turn.  Chuck Todd reported earlier this morning that even Patrick Leahy won’t support the bill (via the Weekly Standard):

The Hill reiterates that Reid won’t give it any public support, either.  He will only pledge to support legislation that “generally” addresses gun violence:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday declined to voice support for Democratic legislation that would ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

Reid said he would bring gun-violence legislation to the floor and open it to a lengthy amendment process. But he declined to endorse the assault weapons ban introduced last week by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), which has the support of the 2nd- and 3rd-ranking Senate Democratic leaders. …

He said he has told his colleagues he will do everything in his power to “bring legislation dealing with guns and violence, generally, to the floor.”

No one thought Reid would be excited to support a new assault-weapons ban.  He didn’t support the last one, and he’s been non-committal over the last several weeks even while his fellow Democrats have publicly demanded a new ban.  Leahy’s reluctance should probably not be surprising, either; Vermont has a lot of gun owners, and voters there support nearly unrestricted gun rights.

However, Leahy chairs the Judiciary Committee, which is where Feinstein’s bill will have to find approval to reach a floor vote — or more likely, a filibuster.  That committee also includes Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken from Minnesota.  Klobuchar easily won re-election and might vote to pass a ban out of committee, but Franken has to face Minnesota voters next year — voters who are also gun-rights supporters.  Franken has said little about Feinstein’s proposal except that he supports a renewal of the assault-weapons ban “in principle.”  If Leahy is not on board, Franken might protect himself with a no vote (or perhaps an abstention).  Assuming the Republicans on the committee oppose it, Feinstein’s bill may never get out of committee at all.

And that may be just as well.  The ATF would have to enforce that ban, and as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, they seem to have enough trouble handling the laws they enforce now:

A store calling itself Fearless Distributing opened early last year on an out-of-the-way street in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, offering designer clothes, athletic shoes, jewelry and drug paraphernalia.

Those working behind the counter, however, weren’t interested in selling anything.

They were undercover agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives running a storefront sting aimed at busting criminal operations in the city by purchasing drugs and guns from felons.

But the effort to date has not snared any major dealers or taken down a gang. Instead, it resulted in a string of mistakes and failures, including an ATF military-style machine gun landing on the streets of Milwaukee and the agency having $35,000 in merchandise stolen from its store, a Journal Sentinel investigation has found.

When the 10-month operation was shut down after the burglary, agents and Milwaukee police officers who participated in the sting cleared out the store but left behind a sensitive document that listed names, vehicles and phone numbers of undercover agents.

And the agency remains locked in a battle with the building’s owner, who says he is owed about $15,000 because of utility bills, holes in the walls, broken doors and damage from an overflowing toilet.

Maybe we should insist on ATF control rather than gun control.

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