The assault weapons legislation introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., faces long odds even after last month’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press

New assault weapons ban introduced

  • Article by: RICHARD SIMON
  • Los Angeles Times
  • January 24, 2013 - 9:28 PM

WASHINGTON - The struggle that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., faces in winning approval for a new assault weapons ban was apparent on Thursday as soon as she walked into a room to unveil her bill.

No Republican lawmaker was there. Nor was a red-state Democrat.

Her new measure, which goes further than the now-lapsed 1994 law she authored, would prohibit the import, manufacture and sale of more than 150 weapons -- including the make of Bushmaster rifle used in the Connecticut school shootings -- and ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

Those who legally own assault weapons would be allowed to keep them. Buyers of currently owned assault weapons would be subject to criminal background checks.

"We have tried to recognize the right of a citizen to legally possess a weapon," Feinstein said at a Capitol Hill news conference. "No weapon is taken from anyone. The purpose is to dry up the supply of these weapons over time."

Although Feinstein dropped the idea of requiring owners of assault weapons to register their firearms, her proposal quickly drew criticism from the National Rifle Association.

"Senator Feinstein has been trying to ban guns from law-abiding citizens for decades," the NRA said. "It's disappointing but not surprising that she is once again focused on curtailing the Constitution instead of prosecuting criminals or fixing our broken mental health system."

Feinstein launched her drive standing alongside gun-violence victims and law enforcement officials.

"I don't think people really understand the firepower that's out there on the streets," Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said. "We're not trying to seize everybody's guns. But we need reasonable gun control in this country or, guess what, it will happen again," he added, referring to mass shootings.

President Obama has called for reinstating the federal ban. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president was working with Feinstein and would use "the power of his office" to advance the ban.

The bill is among a spate of measures introduced since last month's shooting of 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The measures include expanding background checks to all gun purchases and requiring bulk purchases of ammunition to be reported to authorities.

Reinstating the assault weapons ban is considered to face longer odds than a number of other proposals, especially in the Republican-controlled House.

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