Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is on an anti-gun crusade.
So much so that before her remarks on Thursday regarding the new assault weapons ban she hopes to pass, she invited Dean of the National Cathedral Rev. Canon Gary Hall to offer a prayer.
During the prayer, Hall asked God to “bless our elected leaders with the wisdom and the courage needed to bring about the changes that the people demand.”
"Everyone in this city seems to live in terror of the gun lobby," Hall said. "But I believe that the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby."
Suddenly it's God vs. the NRA.
But will the new assault weapons ban even pass?
As of now, barring a miracle, the legislation looks to be stillborn as it is introduced to the Senate on Thursday.
Democrats control 55 out of 100 votes in the Senate, and barring a significant change to the filibuster rule (which Senate leaders have said they wanted), supporters of the gun control measure would need all of those votes, PLUS five Republican votes, just to pass the bill. And that's only in the Senate.
Feinstein may not even have full Democratic support in the Senate: At least five Senate Democrats have declined to take a position on the president's proposal, and there is only one Republican in the Senate, Mark Kirk (Ill.), who supports an assault weapons ban.
Would the bill even make it to the Senate floor? Maybe not.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has indicated that he wouldn't allow a vote on an assault weapons ban of any sort, since it would not pass the GOP-led House. A vote for gun control could be political suicide for Democrats, especially Dems in gun-friendly states up for reelection in 2014.
On Tuesday, Reid signaled that he may allow a vote, though he made clear that he did not expect the measure to pass. Reid, a longtime supporter of gun rights, said he expected the Senate Judiciary Committee to produce a bill after its hearings on gun control, which begin next week.
"It may not be everything everyone wants," he told reporters. "But I hope it has stuff that is really important."
There are other gun control bills being pushed, too. One notable piece of legislation: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Thursday that he was working on a bill with Senate colleagues and the National Rifle Association (NRA) that would implement universal background checks, a major component of President Obama's proposed gun-control reforms.
And then there is the Republican-controlled House, which would rip to shreds any gun ban sent to it by the Senate.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) is the only Republican in the House who has signaled an openness to an assault weapons ban; a handful of other Republicans have said they are open to some gun control measures, though many have pushed a focus on mental health and enforcing existing laws.
Feinstein's bill may be used to give lawmakers from gun-friendly states a measure to oppose before they support the less ambitious bill that comes out of the Judiciary Committee.
The Feinstein bill would:
- Ban the sale, transfer, importation or manufacturing of about 150 named firearms, plus certain rifles, handguns and shotguns fitted for detachable magazines and having at least one military characteristic.
- Strengthen the 1994 ban by moving from a two- to a one-characteristic test to determine what constitutes an assault weapon.
- Ban firearms with "thumbhole stocks" and "bullet buttons."
- Ban the importation of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.
- Ban high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
The bill would grandfather in weapons legally owned on the day of enactment and exempts over 900 specific weapons "used for hunting or sporting purposes."