Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Dianne Feinstein takes assault weapons ban to the people with petition

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Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has promised to re-introduce an assault weapons ban when the new Congress is sworn in. But she's not waiting until January to push for public support.

Senator Feinstein has sent out an e-mail blast, asking supporters to sign a petition to back her ban on assault weapons. Feinstein says she wants to show "how much public support is behind" such a ban.

Feinstein says it isn't about taking away anyone's constitutional right to bear arms: "This is about removing weapons of war from our businesses, movie theaters and schools."

Feinstein was the author of a previous assault weapons ban passed by Congress in 1993. It expired in 2004. She says the new bill will be a stronger version of the earlier law, proposing to ban the sale, importation, transfer or possession of new assault weapons. It will also ban high-capacity clips, magazines, and strips that hold more than 10 bullets. 

The measure faces stiff opposition. Congress was unable to find enough votes to renew the earlier ban, and even in the wake of the Newtown shooting, the National Rifle Association has not softened its stand against the ban. Instead, the NRA recommended posting armed guards at every public school.

One part of Feinstein's new bill is likely to the be target of the most criticism: it requires current gun owners to have a background check and a license for assault weapons they currently own. It's unclear how those owners would be compelled to come forward.

Feinstein calls the new legislation "common sense, and an important first step toward preventing an atrocity like Newtown in the future."

The petition, which is found on her 2012 campaign website, encourages supporters to tell Congress "enough is enough."

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