Gun lobby wins round, but may lose war 

click to enlarge U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposed ban on assault weapons failed last week, but she predicted that the Senate’s failure to act would drive cities and states to enact their own gun-control laws. - AP FILE PHOTO
  • AP file photo
  • U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposed ban on assault weapons failed last week, but she predicted that the Senate’s failure to act would drive cities and states to enact their own gun-control laws.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposal to regulate assault weapons was considered Wednesday in the U.S. Senate, where it failed, as did proposals to expand background checks. During the debate over the assault weapons ban, Feinstein made the case for a single federal standard.

“Even though more states are banning assault weapons, the need for a federal ban has never been greater,” said Feinstein, D-San Francisco. “I believe if this legislation does not pass, we will see bills passed in a number of states. That will result in a confusing patchwork of laws with different standards in different states.”

The bill went down, and what the Senate did by flinching on gun control is deliver an early Christmas present to Democratic-majority state legislatures and city councils. Sure, they might have preferred a national ban on assault  weapons or background checks, but they’ll happily hop on their new gold-plated grandstand from which to shout, “We’ll do what those cowards in Washington won’t!”

Pennsylvania Rep. Dan Frankel wasted no time thumping U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey for saying that we should all “move on” since the push for gun control had failed at the federal level. “I will continue pressing for action at the state level,” Frankel wrote in a news release. “Unfortunately, a small minority of senators are holding the bill, and our public safety, hostage.”

In California, the very day after the failed Senate vote, Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Los Angeles, jumped at the chance to talk about the Washington deadbeats and declare a need for state action.

“Yesterday, Congress failed to pass a background check requirement to keep guns from people who are a danger to themselves,” Blumenfield said. “Congress’ failure is our opportunity.”

In fact, the bill Blumenfield was talking about did not deal directly with background checks, but rather would allocate money to the Justice Department for the task of taking guns away from people who aren’t supposed to have them. But that doesn’t matter. This is one drum whose beat will be the soundtrack to bill after bill after bill.  

After Wednesday’s vote, gun-control advocates vowed to fight on and challenge the re-election of the senators who voted against the measures. But they need not wait for Election Day. Just take a lesson from California. Once seventy-two local governments enacted various bans on plastic bags, they drove state retailers so batty that a bill proposed this year to establish a uniform ban isn’t even opposed by the Chamber of Commerce.

Local representatives in blue states such as California, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts just got what their egos can’t resist: a self-righteous perch from which to make life very difficult and confusing for gun manufacturers and sellers.

The gun lobby might find that “death by a thousand cuts” is more painful than a single federal blast.

Melissa Griffin’s column runs each Thursday and Sunday. She also appears Mondays in “Mornings with Melissa” at  6:45 a.m. on KPIX (Ch. 5). Email her at mgriffin@sfexaminer.com.

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Melissa Griffin

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Monday, Sep 15, 2014

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