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Shooters rejoice: Feinstein's assault weapons ban is dumped

By David Horsey

5:00 AM PDT, March 20, 2013

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This time, we dodged a bullet. Another mass shooting – the sort of bloody event that seems to happen on a weekly basis – was averted Monday when James Oliver Seevakumara chose to shoot himself before he could carry out his plot to shoot a bunch of his fellow students at the University of Central Florida.

He had pulled a gun on his roommate, who hid in a bathroom and called police. When the cops arrived, they discovered a blaring fire alarm and speculated that Seevakumara had set it off in order to lure others in his dorm out of their rooms for easy targeting. For whatever reason – perhaps the quick arrival of police – the 30-year-old business student turned a gun on himself instead of anyone else.

Seevakumara could have created plenty of carnage if he had followed through on the plan outlined in notes he left behind. Through the month of February, he had been busy amassing weapons and ammo, exercising his right to keep and bear arms – lots of arms.

No doubt, some other unhinged citizen somewhere in these great United States is even now gathering guns and pondering the time and place of the next tragedy. Actually, the odds are there are numerous future shooters gearing up for their moment of murder. Among them are the usual quiet loners, depressed students, reclusive old coots and proverbial bad seeds. What they all have in common is easy access to all the firepower they will need.

With Newtown, Conn.; Aurora, Colo.; and all the other places of slaughter still prominent in the national psyche, Congress continues to debate a variety of bills that would restrain the market for firearms in small ways. The National Rifle Assn.,the gun manufacturers and most of the Republican Party are standing against almost any attempt at gun control, so it is left to Democrats – backed by public opinion – to push for change in firearms laws.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been especially prominent in leading the charge. Feinstein wrote the ban on assault weapons that became law in the 1990s. That law was allowed to lapse during the presidency of George W. Bush, and Feinstein has worked to get it back on the books since December’s slaughter of first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

Whether or not the assault weapons ban would make any difference is an open question. Even if it were law, it would not affect the 3.5 to 4 million military-type rifles that are already in private hands. Still, Feinstein and numerous military leaders and police chiefs argue it is patently crazy that such powerful weapons are so easily available.

Their argument apparently is going nowhere. On Tuesday, Feinstein announced that her ban would not be part of a package of gun legislation that is heading to the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has told her the votes just are not there and he does not want to scuttle the rest of the bill by anchoring it to assault weapons. Feinstein’s proposal will still get voted on as an amendment, but Reid predicts it will be lucky to attract 40 votes in the 100-member Senate.

Feinstein sounded a bit weary in defeat. “America has to stand up,” she said. “I can't fight the NRA. The NRA spends unlimited sums, backed by the gun manufacturers, who are craven in my view.”

The political reality is that no gun legislation will make it through the Senate and House without the OK of the NRA, and that pretty much guarantees that tomorrow’s mass shooters will continue to have no trouble acquiring the legal means to their evil ends.