Gun-rights advocates appear to be on the brink of killing a renewed assault weapons ban on Capitol Hill. But the movement's post-Newtown victory is hardly complete — and success may be a high water mark in the political unity of gun proponents.
The ban on assault weapons championed by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California was never the most popular or easiest component of a Democratic push for tighter gun rules. Last week, it passed out of the Democratically controlled Senate Judiciary Committee on a straight party-line vote. Now, Politico reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will not include the bill in the package that comes to the Senate floor. Instead, it would likely be added as an amendment to a package that includes two or three of the other Senate proposals: tighter laws on gun trafficking, more funding for school safety, and background checks. The first two measures are seen as more likely to pass; offering the assault weapons ban as an amendment means it would require its own vote — which would almost certainly fail.
Since the original assault weapons ban expired in 2004, support for such a measure has waned, as shown below. That Feinstein's proposal includes weapons like the AR-15 (which has become enormously popular since the ban expired), the revamped proposal faced political uncertainty even if the National Rifle Association hadn't gotten involved. Data from Gallup