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Gun control & the tale of two senators from Nevada & Calif.

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POSTED January 29, 2013 12:29 a.m.

Dianne Feinstein called it right.

Any type of federal gun regulation bid in Congress is going to be an uphill battle.

The senior senator from California understands this perhaps more than anyone else especially those who try to separate the debate into Republicans versus Democrats or even conservatives versus liberals.

Feinstein’s accession to national prominence came in a hail of bullets.

She was the relatively obscure president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors when a former cop who had just resigned his seat on the supervisors assassinated Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. The infamous Twinkie defense - his lawyer claimed the ex-cop had been gouging himself on junk food - got Dan White less than 10 years in prison for two murders.

That city hall bloodshed on Nov. 27, 1978 elevated Feinstein to mayor.

It didn’t convince her that guns were the root of all evil. She was tempered by an equally disgusting act in the jungle of Guyana involving a number of San Franciscans just nine days earlier. Peoples’ Temple cult leader Jim Jones ordered the assassination of Congressman Leo Ryan and his party as they were departing at an airstrip following a fact-finding mission. Five people were killed by guns. Another 918 died shortly thereafter on Jones’ directive drinking Kool-Aid spiked with poison.

Some 183 times more people died from poison that day than from guns.

It wasn’t until July 1, 1993 when eight people were killed and six injured in the law firm massacre at 101 California Street in San Francisco that Feinstein was inspired to introduce the federal assault weapon ban that went into law in 1994.

One of Feinstein’s biggest obstacles in trying to revive her federal assault weapon ban that has since expired are her fellow Democrats, especially Harry Reid.

The Nevada Democrat is the Senate majority leader. That means he controls the bills that get heard by the full Senate.

While the National Rifle Association hasn’t exactly conferred an honorary lifetime membership on Reid, the senator has been real cozy with the NRA and gun owners.

Political observers credit his re-election to the relationship he has forged with gun enthusiasts. An example was his shooting clay pigeons during his re-election campaign at a $61 million new gun park in Las Vegas that was built with federal money that he helped secure.

Nevada is a state that takes the freedom of individuals - that includes the right to bear arms - seriously. You can understand given the federal government controls 84.5 percent of the land and that guns still in many parts of Nevada are still a means of survival.

Reid in an interview with the Las Vegas PBS affiliate himself proclaimed, “I don’t think anyone wants to diminish the Second Amendment. The American people want us to be very cautious.”

There are countless politicians like Harry Reid out there who aren’t “listening to gun nuts” but instead are conversing with law-abiding citizens who believe in freedoms extended them through the constitution including the right to own and use guns.

They do follow the law.

Gutting the Second Amendment to go after those who perpetuate massacres would be akin to gutting the First Amendment as a way to silence those who commit wholesale slander.

Feinstein understands that. But Reid - and others in Congress - have a lower level of tolerance when it comes to chipping away at freedoms conferred to all just to control a few.



This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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