Senate leader says new weapons ban won't pass

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Story highlights

  • Sen. Harry Reid says the proposed ban on some firearms won't get enough votes
  • Reid will introduce gun legislation without the ban to ensure it clears a GOP filibuster
  • Reid says the ban's sponsor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, can then offer it as an amendment
  • Feinstein says she is disappointed, but won't back down
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that a proposed ban on semi-automatic firearms modeled after military assault weapons has no chance of passing the chamber, but he wants to ensure a vote on it will occur.
The proposal to update a similar 1994 ban that expired a decade later was one of four measures passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in response to the Connecticut school massacre in December.
Reid, D-Nevada, told reporters he won't keep the proposed ban in gun legislation heading to the full Senate for consideration because including it would guarantee the measure would be blocked by a Republican filibuster.
The ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, and fiercely opposed by the National Rifle Association, Republicans and some Democrats would get fewer than 40 votes, Reid said, far below the threshold needed to defeat any filibuster or pass the Senate.
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Instead, Feinstein could propose the ban as an amendment to the gun legislation on the Senate floor in order to get a vote on it, Reid said.
President Barack Obama supports Feinstein's proposal.
The other proposals passed by the Judiciary Committee would expand background checks on gun sales, toughen laws against firearms trafficking and straw purchases, and design steps to improve school safety.
Reid's move doesn't come as a surprise as he has signaled for weeks he would only allow a vote on an assault weapons amendment.
"I have to get something on the floor," Reid said.
Feinstein said she was "disappointed" with Reid's decision, which he told her about in a private meeting on Monday.
She acknowledged that other provisions of a gun-control package might have a better chance of passing without the controversial assault weapons ban.
"The enemies on this are very powerful," Feinstein said. "I've known that all my life."
Nevertheless, Feinstein said the issue was very important to her and she would not stop pursuing it.
"I'm not going to lay down and play dead," she told CNN's "The Situation Room."
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip, told CNN the proposed ban would make crafting broader legislation harder to accomplish.
"Harry is trying to put together a base package that will get 60 votes on the floor," Durbin said.
It is unclear, however, if any of the measures ultimately would clear the Senate.
"All these issues are important and I'm going to what I can to make sure we have a fair, sound debate on this," Reid said. "I want something to succeed."
Reid said he would schedule floor debate shortly after the Senate returns from its upcoming recess in April.