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The Globe and Mail

U.S. gun-control measure weakened as Senate drops assault-weapons ban

A convention attendee looks through a display of Sig Sauer semiautomatic rifles during the 35th annual SHOT Show, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, in Las Vegas. The National Shooting Sports Foundation was focusing its trade show on products and services new to what it calls a $4.1 billion industry, with a nod to a raging national debate over assault weapons.

Julie Jacobson/AP

U.S. lawmakers dropped an effort to include a ban on assault weapons in a broader gun-control package Tuesday, conceding the difficulties of passing such legislation through Congress.

The move by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid does not kill the proposal outright, but cleaving it off from three other measures being strongly pushed by President Barack Obama's Democrats leaves it to wither in today's highly partisan Congress.

Mr. Reid said the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, proposed in the wake of last year's mass murder of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., did not have the votes to pass.

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Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein had tabled the ban, and it had won support from many in her party, but not enough fellow senators to pass the 100-member chamber.

"Right now her amendment, using the most optimistic numbers, has less than 40 votes," Mr. Reid said. "I have to get something on the floor so we can have votes on that issue."

Controversial bills need 60 votes to ensure that they are not derailed by a filibuster, a parliamentary manoeuvre to prevent them coming to a vote.

Democrats, who hold 55 Senate seats, had sought Republican support for four measures, including the requirement that background checks be required for all gun sales. Democrats hoped to cobble these measure together into one bill.

The other three have a chance of winning some modest Republican support and have somewhat better odds of getting through both houses of Congress.

The assault-weapons ban, backed by the White House, passed out of committee last week on a strict party-line vote.

It still could be voted on separately, and while that would be expected to fail, Ms. Feinstein was standing firm about demanding Mr. Reid allow her such a vote.

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"I'm not going to lay down and play dead," she said on CNN. "I think the American people have said in every single public poll that they support this kind of legislation."

The Feinstein measure would have prohibited the manufacture, import and sale of 157 models of assault weapons, including the one used on Dec. 14 to kill 20 schoolchildren and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

It would have been a reprisal of her 1994 assault-weapons ban, which only squeaked through Congress because it included a sunset provision that caused it to expire in 2004.

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