WaPo: Assault-weapons ban is probably DOA

Alternate headline: Math isn’t hard after all.  The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake offers multiple reasons why Dianne Feinstein’s assault-weapons ban won’t be going anywhere in the Senate, and the first reason isn’t even the fact that Democrats can’t get anywhere near the 60 votes to bring the bill to a vote.  The first clue is that Joe Biden more or less dismissed it during his Google hangout the day after Feinstein announced the bill:

The same day that Feinstein introduced the bill, Biden suggested that magazine sizes were the most important part of a gun control package. ”I’m much less concerned, quite frankly, about what you call an assault weapon than I am about magazines and the number of rounds that can be held in a magazine,” Biden said in a Google Hangout. He added that “more people out there get shot with a Glock that has cartridges in a (high-capacity magazine)” and also suggested that shotguns are more deadly than so-called assault weapons. Biden then again downplayed the ban again during a two-hour roundtable discussion on Friday.

This, we remind you, is all within 24 hours of the assault weapons ban being introduced by a Democratic senator. And Biden is already giving us reasons why it’s not that big a deal.

Biden is the point man on all of this. His words matter, and he’s quite aware of the current politics of his issue. The fact that he’s downplaying the assault weapons ban suggests that it’s not likely to happen and he doesn’t want the whole thing to be viewed as a failure if the ban isn’t passed.

At the time, NBC read the writing on the wall, too:

Getting an outright ban through a divided Congress in the face of opposition from the National Rifle Association and other groups is unlikely, and the fight is likely to focus on other measures, like the background checks and limits on magazine size.

Biden’s comments came hours after Senate Democrats, led by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, displayed various assault weapons at a Capitol Hill press conference. Feinstein introduced legislation Thursday to ban 158 specific types of those guns.

As for the math, that’s pretty easy to do. Bloomberg reported late last week that even if the bill came to a floor vote, Democrats won’t get a majority despite having 55 seats in the upper chamber:

At least six of the 55 senators in the Democratic caucus have expressed skepticism or outright opposition to a ban, the review found. That means Democrats wouldn’t have a 51-vote majority to pass the measure, let alone the 60 needed to break a Republican filibuster to bring it to a floor vote. …

The five Democratic senators from traditionally pro-gun states who have expressed skepticism about the bill are Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Independent Senator Angus King of Maine, who caucuses with Democrats, also said he opposes a ban.

Maine Senator Susan Collins, a Republican who supported similar legislation in 2004, has indicated she is unlikely to back the proposed ban in its current form.

Left off of Bloomberg’s list are another three Democrats who may find it difficult to cast votes for a ban: New Hampshire’s Jean Shaheen, whose state has a significant gun-manufacturing industry; North Carolina’s Kay Hagan, whose state has turned more Republican of late; and Arkansas’ Mark Pryor, whose constituents would not likely reward him for banning guns, either.  And if Collins won’t vote for it, Feinstein won’t find any other Republicans to fill the gaps, either.

Feinstein said Saturday that Harry Reid, who is also not likely to vote for the bill, promised her a floor vote, but it may just be as an amendment:

Senator Dianne Feinstein said Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised that even if the assault weapons ban is left out of a broader package intended to curb gun violence, she will have the opportunity to offer it as an amendment on the Senate floor.

Thanks to the new filibuster rules, though, both sides are only guaranteed two amendments on any bill.  I’m not sure that Reid will want to waste a slot on an amendment that will not only go nowhere but might end up endangering some of his red-state colleagues who face voters in 2014.  And also thanks to the new filibuster rules, Republicans can block Feinstein’s bill from a floor vote no matter what Harry Reid wants.

The assault-weapons ban is most certainly DOA.  Some of the components, like expanded background checks and magazine limits, may still pass, but Feinstein’s core proposal has zero chance of proceeding, especially after last week’s compromise on the filibuster.

Addendum: Regarding the front-page picture, did no one ever tell Feinstein to keep her finger off the trigger of a firearm unless ready to shoot?  Shouldn’t a politician attempting to lecture us on gun safety know something about it herself?