DiFi: Assault weapons ban won’t return soon

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who helped author the 1994 federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, tells Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” she’ll hold off trying to renew the ban; the segment will air at 7 p.m. this Sunday, April 12 on CBS Channel 5. From CBS’ news release:

Asked by Stahl if trying to renew the assault weapons ban would start a culture war and pose a distraction for an already overburdened Obama Administration, Feinstein replies, “I agree with you.” “So you are going to hold off?” asks Stahl. “That’s correct. I’ll pick the time and the place, no question about it,” Feinstein tells Stahl.

But even if she pursued the renewal, the votes may not be there today in either the Senate or the House. Both Houses of Congress gained pro-gun Democrats this past election, some of whom won the support of the National Rifle Association. “I am not going to disagree with that at all,” says Feinstein. “The National Rifle Association essentially has a stranglehold on the Congress.”

Watch CBS Videos Online

This gibes with what Rep. Pete Stark told me earlier this week when I asked him about the assault weapons ban.

CBS said the Feinstein interivew is part of Stahl’s report on the increase of gun sales in America, wherein she also talks to gun enthusiasts who tell her Americans are buying more guns now, in part, due to fear of impending social unrest as a result of the financial meltdown.

Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-guns advocacy group, explains: “We’re being told all the time that, ‘The economy could just collapse and we could fall into chaos.’ Well, chaos is a good reason to be able to protect yourself… You could imagine if we truly had a collapse of the economy and it was hard to find food, those that did manage to hang onto food—might…find themselves in a precarious position.”’ Van Cleave tells Stahl the other main reason is fear of potential gun control under new President Barack Obama.

This smacks of wingnuttery to me. We survived the Great Depression without stockpiling weapons — why must this recession suddenly become prelude to “The Road Warrior?” Go ahead and argue for Second Amendment rights, fine, but it’s insulting to claim Americans are ready to go all post-apocalyptic and start eating each others’ kids due to an economic downturn. Hysteria in the face of hardship is downright un-American, I’d say.

And aside from all the paranoia about Obama, I’d like to know exactly what he has done to engender this “fear of potential gun control.” If anyone has been stoking that fear, it’s the NRA — thereby making a lot of money for gun manufacturers and dealers.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.