Assault weapons ban faces "uphill battle," says author Feinstein

Assault weapons ban introduced in Senate
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has introduced legislation banning the sale of 157 different military-style firearms. But, as Nancy Cordes reports, she acknowledged that the bill's supporters face an "uphill battle."
Alex Wong

This Sunday on "Face the Nation," host Bob Schieffer sat down with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.) to discuss the recent assault weapons ban she introduced on the Senate floor last week. Senator Feinstein conceded getting her bill passed would be an "uphill battle," saying that the NRA was "equally as powerful" as it was in the 1990s, when the first assault weapons ban was passed. Moreover, Feinstein warned, legislators today would have to contend with gun manufacturers as well, who have "extended their arm" in lobbying efforts over the past decade.

Still, Feinstein remained optimistic. "I think I can get [the assault weapons ban] passed, because the American people are very much for it," she said. The Senator also pointed out institutional support for the ban, saying, ""We have the United States Conference of Mayors, we have the Major City Chiefs, we have the largest police organization in the world supporting us. We have individual chiefs and sheriffs, we have pediatricians, trauma room surgeons, teachers, you name it, all the way down." Though she admitted the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms was a consideration, she countered by invoking the victims of gun violence, arguing, "Does a child have a right to be safe in school?" Feinstein closed with an emotional appeal that when one, "talks about rights, talk about the rights of the majority too."

(For more on Senator Feinstein's appearance on "Face the Nation," check out The Boston Globe, The Washington Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Talking Points Memo, and Roll Call.)

On the other side of the aisle, former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) both came out strongly opposed to an assault weapons ban. Gingrich called Feinstein's proposed legislation "propaganda," saying, "Any true military weapon is illegal, and has been illegal since 1934." Gingrich cautioned against ineffective solutions to the problem of gun violence, saying, "We ought to have the courage to look at the facts, and not create propaganda."

Representative Blackburn echoed Speaker Gingrich's sentiments, warning "I think that we're looking at the symptoms, we're not looking at the root causes." Additionally, she questioned the efficacy of an assault weapons ban, saying, "I've got to tell you, an assault weapon ban is not the answer to help keep people safe." Instead, Blackburn advised a holistic approach to the problem, citing mental health issues, drug abuse, and a violent entertainment industry all as factors that contribute to gun violence.

Also weighing in on the assault weapons ban and the larger problems associated with gun violence was New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Commissioner Kelly opened by praising the Senate, saying, "I commend the Senate, I think it's certainly moved in the right direction, I agree with it." Still, Kelly admitted getting an assault weapons ban signed into law was likely to be a difficult battle, calling it "a heavy lift in Congress."

Kelly also warned that his main concern was concealed handguns, saying, "Only 2% of the people that we have arrested for guns in the last two years have had assault weapons. We don't want them on the streets, make no mistake about it, but the problem is the handgun. 60% of the murders in New York City are caused by handguns and we simply have too many of them."

(Be sure to visit Gothamist, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Post for continued coverage of NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's appearance on "Face the Nation.")

Speaker Gingrich also weighed in on Secretary Panetta's recent decision to allow women in combat this Sunday. In a reversal from his infamous remarks in 1995, when Gingrich disqualified women from combat based on "biological problems," the Speaker admitted "We've learned a lot more." Gingrich noted, "Objectively, they are in combat already. This is simply recognizing a reality that exists."

(If you'd like to read more about Speaker Gingrich and Rep. Blackburn on "Face the Nation," be sure to visit The Hill Blog and Politico.)

For more "Face the Nation," be sure to check out Bob's commentaryon what women in combat means for the military, a Flashback lookat the Challenger tragedy that took place 27 years ago, and our political roundtable discussion, featuring Romney Senior Adviser Kevin Madden, Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter, The Washington Post's David Ignatius and The New York Times' David Sanger. As always, the full edition of "Face the Nation" can be found above. Be sure to tune in next week for a broadcast from Super Bowl host city New Orleans.