It’s not going to happen

February 27, 2013

[I resisted the urge to include a picture of the Mean Girls meme about this, but I did work in an old Star Trek reference as gun control legislation runs the Congressional gauntlet…of pain.]

Most bills never even get this far. (Schoolhouse Rock)

So, it’s come to this: the new assault weapons ban will get a vote in the Senate. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy has chosen — wisely, I think — to schedule separate votes on four different measures, rather than build them all into one package of legislation. And I realize that even before this turn of events, the prospects for an assault weapons ban were not good.

So while earlier reports that this would never even get a vote in the Senate proved to be untrue, it’s still not going to happen. It’s scheduled for tomorrow but since parliamentary maneuvers could delay a vote for a week, a vote tomorrow won’t happen. And even if by some miracle the assault weapons ban can get a majority vote to match its overall support among Americans (69% overall, 83% among Democrats), it can still be filibustered. And even if it survived that, there’s the House. So get over it, it’s not going to happen.


Even after the mass shooting in Newtown, Harry Reid wasn’t interested in a ban on assault weapons. Pay no attention to the victims. Nothing will change. It’s not going to happen. Late in January, he magnanimously changed his mind and decided that he may allow a vote.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, signaled on Tuesday that despite earlier indications to the contrary, he may allow a vote on a possible ban on assault weapons.Reid, a longtime gun-rights advocate from Nevada, recently indicated he would not permit a vote because the Republican-led House of Representatives was unlikely to go along with such a prohibition.

But after a weekly meeting with fellow Senate Democrats, Reid told reporters he expects “to have a free amendment process” on gun legislation.

Still, Senator Reid’s refusal to reform the filibuster gave him the tools he needed to take the assault weapons ban out back and quietly shoot it. Earlier this month, his vague signals and indications made it clear that whatever vote did happen would be behind the scenes. Forget about the ban; his priority was providing political cover. It’s not going to happen.

The ban will get a vote. But the purpose of that vote will be in part to facilitate its demise. The expectation is that there won’t be 60 members of the upper chamber to support the bill’s inclusion in the final legislative language.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT

Now, somehow Patrick Leahy, Democratic Senator from Vermont, has apparently dodged this roadblock and set up separate pieces of legislation, offering less of an easy target for Republicans to shoot down the entire proposal. Individual Senators will be able to vote for the pieces they like, and against those they don’t.

The decision to stage separate votes, rather than bundle the measures together, is significant, as it will allow centrist Democrats wary of Obama’s gun-control strategy to hand-pick which elements (if any) they want to support. It also ensures that the assault weapons ban – the most radioactive of the measures – is not automatically included in the package, thereby threatening the less controversial reforms.

Of course, as the Hill makes it clear, the assault weapons ban is not going to happen. It’s the most controversial, the one most likely to face opposition from “centrist Democrats” — never mind that 83% or more of Democrats and more than half of Republicans approve of such measures as banning the sale of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. I am left wondering what a “centrist Democrat” is, considering half of Republicans are willing to see this happen. But never mind that. It took this much time and effort and pressure from the President and from us just to get this proposal to a vote. Which, still, may or may not happen.

And though I heard more about these proposals to reduce gun violence yesterday on Rachel Maddow, I’m sure the NRA and its agents in the Senate have nothing to worry about. The assault weapons ban will never happen.

Never mind that Navy admiral in the MAIG ad denouncing the proliferation of assault weapons that belong on battlefields, “not for cowards to use” in mass shootings. Those gun hobbyists with their tricked-out ‘black rifles’ have nothing to worry about. Some Navy admiral? Who’s he supposed to be? Or the rest of them, retired flag-rank military officers? What do they know about weapons of war?

I read today in Mother Jones that more than half of the weapons possessed by the mass shooters that have victimized our country in the past thirty years would be affected by the assault weapons ban. They collected data going back to 1982.

And beyond the restrictions on assault weapons, the restrictions it would place on high-capacity magazines are worth noting. This would do nothing about the proliferation of semi-automatic handguns, of course. But the AWB would have an effect on the use and abuse of handguns, limiting the number of bullets a mass shooter could fire before having to reload.

Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 isn’t just about mass shootings, of course. By far the most common weapons used in these cases are semiautomatic handguns—the type of weapon also at the heart of the daily gun violence plaguing American communities. Banning high-capacity magazines may be especially key with regard to these guns, not only because they’re popular among mass shooters, but also because they tend to increase casualties in street violence, as a veteran ATF agent explained to us in a recent interview.The devices have appeal on the streets. A Chicago high school student recently described his preference for 30-round magazines to a reporter for This American Life: “They got the most shots. You can shoot forever. Let out 15. Run back to where you going. Somebody else come out and let out five more. There you go.”

Never mind all of that, though. The NRA-sponsored spending drive amongst gun enthusiasts, buying up high-capacity magazines and ‘black rifles’ and such, is all simply an exercise in pointless paranoia. That, and lovely profits for gun manufacturers. Because they can’t seriously believe that an assault weapons ban is going to happen.

If some fringe of Republicans, centrist Democrats and Wayne LaPierre think their cause is so righteous and their chances are so good, if it’s such a political winner to kick the victims of gun violence to the curb, let’s see them match that bravado with action. Never mind the lives that could be saved by the assault weapons ban, and I’m sure they have nothing to fear from putting some votes on the record. It’s not as if we can repeat the victory of Robin Kelly in Chicago, her district is so blue, supposedly my monitor can’t display it with the proper level of color saturation. It means nothing. There’s no need for the NRA to be afraid, is there? Put up or shut up.

I’ve been told, more times than I can easily count, that this is all an exercise in futility. Or worse, political suicide. Nevertheless I will continue to demand a vote and encourage others to do the same. As the President points out,

It won’t be easy, but if we can save even one life, it’ll be worth it.



  1. why is the asshole reid the leader? i’ve never been quite sure on that. you’d think a demo from a more populous and important state would be.

    • Reid’s wiki page indicates that he rose up through the Senate leadership and took the post in 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Reid#Leadership The Senate has always been a haven for more conservative Democrats. What we saw in the failed filibuster reform effort was some newer, less conservative Democrats losing to Reid. Hopefully the days of such conservatives as leaders are numbered.

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