‘Have you no shame?’ Dianne Feinstein asks fellow lawmakers as she urges gun reform

·2 min read
(William Luther/The San Antonio Express-News via AP) /WILLIAM LUTHER AP

An 18-year-old can’t legally be served at a bar, but can legally buy an assault rifle. So please, pleaded Sen. Dianne Feinstein, raise the age for purchasing those deadly weapons to 21.

“Have you no shame?” the California Democrat asked colleagues Wednesday. “Pass the Age 21 Act now,” she said, referring to the name of the bill she introduced last week.

An 18-year-old gunman killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, Tuesday, with an assault rifle. Ten days earlier, an 18-year-old killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket.

“Both these teenage shooters would have been turned away at a bar,” Feinstein said.

“But they were able to walk into gun stores and legally purchase one of the most deadly weapons available, weapons that have no place on our streets, in our grocery stores or in our schools. This is unconscionable.”

The killings sparked a familiar Capitol Hill cry, almost exclusively among Democrats, for crackdowns on guns.

And just as familiar, many Republicans were circumspect or downright reluctant to go along.

“Can you define an assault rifle?” asked Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota. He said such ideas “sounds easy describing these until you actually get into this thing.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., was somewhat more sympathetic. “It’s on the table. I can imagine discussions,” he said of Feinstein’s proposal. “I’m not gonna dismiss it out of hand.”

But getting 60 senators to agree–the Senate is split 50-50 between Republicans and those who caucus with Democrats–seems elusive.

Cramer explained why. “The fundamental right for law abiding citizens to protect themselves with firearms is fundamental,” he said.

Feinstein became mayor of San Francisco in 1978 after city Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were shot and killed by former Supervisor Dan White. A visibly distraught Feinstein announced the murders to the public.

She became a senator in 1992 and was a leading advocate for gun control. In 1994 she led the fight to ban assault weapons, restrictions that were allowed to expire 10 years later. The law did describe what types of weapons were not allowed. She introduced an earlier version of the Age 21 law in 2018, with Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, a co-sponsor. Flake is no longer in the Senate, and the bill went nowhere.

No gun control votes are expected this week in the Senate. Members are scheduled to leave Thursday afternoon for a Memorial Day recess and not return until June 7. The House is not voting this week and plans no votes until June 7.

Many gun control advocates are pressing for quick votes. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said he was sympathetic.

But, he said, “I believe that accountability votes are important. But sadly, this isn’t a case of the American people not knowing where their senators stand. They know.”

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