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Senate Democrats are facing a major dilemma on how hard they should push for an assault weapons ban, a sensitive topic for vulnerable centrists who are running for reelection next year.

Gun control advocates are scrutinizing Senate Democrats’ strategy for implementing President Obama’s proposals for reducing gun violence, and a watered-down effort would likely prompt a backlash from the party’s liberal base.


Advocates are watching closely to see whether Senate Democrats will use their two-seat majority on the Judiciary Committee to include an assault weapons ban and limits on high-capacity magazines in gun violence legislation moving to the floor.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has promised to give Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the lead sponsor of the assault weapons ban, a chance to offer her proposal on the floor.

But controversial amendments usually need 60 votes on the Senate floor to be added to pending legislation. Experts following the gun violence debate say an assault weapons ban offered as an amendment on the floor would have virtually no chance of passing. ......



“The base bill would be better because it is part of an entire package and it would be considered along with other provisions. If you pull it out as a stand-alone provision, it’s an easier target for opponents,” he said.



It’s somewhat surprising that Feinstein would consider not offering her proposal in committee. It is co-sponsored by eight of the 10 Democrats on the panel, where it would only need a majority vote to secure approval. ....



But Feinstein could be leery of putting her Democratic colleagues in a tough political position. ....

Reid has declined to endorse Feinstein’s measure, and he worked to defeat renewal of the assault weapons ban in 2009. Democratic senators in conservative states running for reelection in 2014, including Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Mark Begich (Alaska) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), have also balked at it. ..................


Reid is not eager to press his centrist colleagues to take a politically dangerous vote to pass gun control measures if they will only stall in the House.

“The logic of Senate Republicans and some Senate Democrats is, ‘If the House won’t pick it up, much less pass it, why would we stick our necks out?’ ” said a strategist tracking the Senate debate.


Bloomberg is unlikely to be shy if Senate Democrats do not go all out to reinstate the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. Former President George W. Bush backed the reinstatement of the ban, but like Obama in his first term, he did not press Congress to act.....


The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has run newspaper ads ripping Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) for calling Obama’s gun control agenda “extreme.” And last month, it released a video publicizing Rep. John Barrow’s (D-Ga.) tight relationship with the NRA.

Ladd Everitt, the coalition’s spokesman, said gun control activists will be happy if Congress passes legislation requiring universal background checks for gun buyers and cracks down on gun trafficking.

But he said Democrats who vote against the assault weapons ban and limits on high-capacity ammunition will not get a free pass.

“Let’s make no mistake here. The era of no accountability is over,” he said. ..........



http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/281343-senate-democrats-face-gun-dilemma-
 
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