No one expected the assault-weapons ban proposed by Dianne Feinstein to pass as part of the Senate’s gun-control package.  Now it won’t even be a part of it.  Last night, Feinstein told reporters that Harry Reid had excluded it from the final version of the legislative package:

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.

“Almost certain defeat”? Left on its own as an amendment, Feinstein’s bill would be lucky to get 35 votes. She knows it, too, which is why she vented her frustration:

“My understanding is it will not be [part of the base bill],” Feinstein said. “It will be separate.”

Asked if she were concerned about the decision, Feinstein paused and said, “Sure. I would like to [see the bill moved], but the leader has decided not to do it.”

“You will have to ask him [Reid],” she said, when asked why the decision was made.

Do we need to ask? Reid can be accused of many things, but he’s not clueless when it comes to the politics of guns.  Reid wants to pass a bipartisan bill to expand background checks, and he’s more than willing to sacrifice Feinstein’s effort to get it, especially since Reid was never enthusiastic about the renewed AWB in the first place.

This way, he gets two wins.  First, using Feinstein’s proposal as the extreme of the effort, the background-check legislation looks more reasonable, even where it may not be.  Second, by allowing Democrats in red states to vote against the AWB in a separate floor action, he protects them from attacks in the 2014 election.   It’s a win-win for Reid.

It’s more of a mixed bag for gun-rights advocates. Depending on whether the Senate bill includes federal registration of all firearms, it’s a big loss — but that has absolutely no chance of passing the House anyway, and Republicans in the Senate won’t have any reason to stick around if it does.  If it doesn’t, it’s more of a headache than a problem.  The upside will be the outright rejection of the AWB, which should stick a stake through its heart for another decade after politicians who took the risk to demand it ended up with egg on their faces.