Fuming over the assault weapons ban’s failure

Sen. Dianne Feinstein speaks next to a display on assault weapons during a news conference in January. Her proposed ban on assault weapons will not be brought up for a vote in the Senate.
(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

To say that that the preponderance of letters we receive on assault weapons call for their ban wouldn’t be an exaggeration. So when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Tuesday that the ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein wouldn’t be brought to the floor for a vote, readers fumed.

In the past, I’ve noted that readers angry about an issue tend to write more quickly and in greater numbers than those who aren’t. Consequently, the mix of opinions sent to may tilt decisively in one direction and not necessarily reflect broader public opinion. But on assault weapons, our readers’ opinions roughly align with the public’s, according to polls. In January, a Gallup survey found that 60% of Americans favor a federal ban similar to or stronger than the one on the books between 1994 and 2004.

Combine broad public consensus with an issue primed to stir readers’ passions, and it’s no surprise that almost all of the letters sent to us so far take aim at those in the Senate who opposed the assault weapons ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein. David Warburton gets us started (his letter will likely be published in Thursday’s paper):


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“We all owe Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) great thanks for her pursuit of a federal assault weapons ban, but it is quite clear that if the horrific massacre in Connecticut in December didn’t persuade Senate Republicans that these murder weapons should not be sold, nothing will. The only solution is to vote Republicans out of office and replace them with senators who can exercise common sense.

“I hope that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will eventually bring another ban to the Senate floor so that the GOP’s “no” votes can be recorded for everyone to see and subsequently used against them when they run for reelection.

“As Feinstein said, another massacre is waiting to happen out there, and the hand-wringing will start all over again without anything being done.”

San Clemente resident Alba Farfaglia raises a similar question: What needs to happen for Republicans to support an assault weapons ban? Farfaglia writes:

“Feinstein brought the father of a child killed at Sandy Hook Elementary to Capitol Hill. She brought in police officers. She relayed her experience with the 1978 shooting of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk. None of this was enough. People will be able to keep the estimated 3.5 million to 4 million assault weapons in this country.

“Republicans contended that the new proposal would jeopardize the rights of law-abiding citizens. Fellow Democrat Reid and some of his colleagues likely fear that a vote for the ban would hurt their re-election chances. In other words, it’s business as usual. Members of Congress are concerned more about themselves than the well-being of the people.

“Banning assault weapons like the Bushmaster rifle used in the mass school shooting last December is a matter of public safety. The purpose of these weapons is to kill many people in a matter of seconds. And regarding the rights of law-abiding citizens, the slain elementary school students in Connecticut had rights too -- to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

One reader said Feinstein’s ban would be pointless. P.J. Gendell of Marina del Rey wrote:

“Real ‘assault weapons’ have already been banned for decades. Why wasn’t Feinstein’s proposal called the more accurate name, ‘Ban on rifles that look like assault weapons’?”

Check tomorrow for more letters on the assault weapons ban.


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