WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Academy Award-winning director Michael Moore had some harsh words for Sen. Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats after they decided not to include an assault weapons ban in gun-control legislation.
Moore ranted against the Senate majority leader after Reid removed Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposal to prohibit military-style weapons from the bill because they wouldn’t have the votes. The director behind “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11” said people need to “rise up” against the Nevada senator.
“There will be an Aurora next month and there will be a Sandy Hook the month after that,” Moore told CNN. “This is just going to keep going on and on and on until people rise up, until people take Harry Reid by the collar and say, ‘Who the hell do you think you are? This is our country, Harry Reid.”
Moore also took it one step further, insinuating the assault weapons ban would be voted on if Reid’s grandchildren were killed in a school shooting.
“If a man with an assault weapon goes into the school where Harry Reid’s grandchildren go to school tomorrow and kills his grandchildren, would he stand in front of that microphone at five o’clock and say, ‘I know how Dianne [Feinstein] had to witness the mayor getting murdered, but my grandchildren just got killed today, but, you know, we can’t get it passed because we just don’t have the votes,’” Moore said. Feinstein was in San Francisco’s City Hall in November 1978 when Mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk were killed by a rival politician.
The ban is the most controversial firearms restriction that President Barack Obama and other Democrats have pressed for since an assault-type weapon was used in the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 26 people were killed, including 20 students.
In a tactical decision, Reid concluded Tuesday that including the prohibition in the gun bill would jeopardize the chances for passage of any firearms legislation at all, taking away votes that would be needed to overcome Republican attempts to block the Senate from even taking up the issue.
“I very much regret it,” Feinstein said Tuesday of the choice that Reid told her he had made. “I tried my best. But my best, I guess, wasn’t good enough.”
Feinstein’s proposal to prohibit military-style weapons will still get a vote as an amendment to the gun legislation that Democrats debate. But she is all but certain to need 60 votes from the 100-member Senate to prevail, and she faces solid Republican opposition as well as likely defections from some Democrats.
Reid told reporters that “using the most optimistic numbers,” there were less than 40 votes for Feinstein’s ban. That is far less than the 60 votes needed to move contested legislation in the chamber, which has 53 Democrats plus two independents who usually back them.
“I’m not going to try to put something on the floor that won’t succeed. I want something that will succeed. I think the worst of all worlds would be to bring something to the floor and it dies there,” Reid said.
Because of the opposition the ban has prompted, its exclusion from the initial package the Senate considers had been expected as a way for Democrats to amass the strongest possible vote for the overall legislation. Having a separate vote on assault weapons might free moderate Democratic senators facing re-election in Republican-leaning states next year to vote against the assault weapons measure, but then support the remaining overall package of gun curbs.
Gun-control supporters also consider a strong Senate vote on an overall bill important because it could put pressure on the Republican-run House, whose leaders have shown little enthusiasm for most of Obama’s proposals.
Gun-control advocates expressed little surprise over the decision to keep assault weapons out of the initial federal bill.
“If their view is that the assault weapons ban is tougher sledding, we respect that,” said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which represents hundreds of U.S. mayors seeking gun curbs. He said his group wants Reid’s bill to be focused on expanding required background checks for gun buyers, a provision that he called “the biggest policy fix” that could be made.
The NRA’s chief lobbyist, Chris W. Cox, said in a written statement, “History has proven that a senseless ban of firearms based on cosmetic features will not make our communities safer. Congress should reject this so-called ‘assault weapons ban’ whether it is offered as a stand-alone bill or as an amendment.”
Cox reiterated his organization’s preference to focus on school safety, mental health and better enforcement of existing laws.
Said Feinstein: “That’s the problem with this place. The gun lobby is inordinately powerful.” She was an author of the 1994 assault weapons ban that Congress failed to renew after a decade.
Her provision would ban semi-automatic weapons — guns that fire one round and automatically reload — that can take a detachable magazine and have at least one military feature such as a pistol grip. It would specifically prohibit 157 weapons.
It also would ban ammunition magazines carrying more than 10 rounds — another factor in some of the nation’s recent mass killings.
It would exempt any weapons that were legally owned whenever the bill was enacted. Also exempted would be 2,258 rifles and shotguns that are frequently used by hunters.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved four gun-control measures this month, including Feinstein’s. The others would expand required federal background checks for firearms buyers, increase federal penalties for illegal gun trafficking and boost school safety money.
Reid said he has not decided which measures would be included in the base bill he brings to the Senate floor. Democratic aides and lobbyists say the trafficking and school safety measures are likely candidates because each passed the Judiciary panel with some bipartisan support.
It is unclear how Reid will handle the background check measure.
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said Obama is not giving up on the assault weapons ban being added as an amendment.
“We’re going to work on this,” McDonough said in an appearance on CNN. “We’re going to find the votes. It deserves a vote.”
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