AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Dianne Feinstein has made a good bit of her political life about gun control. It’s been a key issue for her during her entire tenure in Congress. For many of us, she’s the first name we think of when the subject of gun-grabbing politician comes up.
Which is why it’s mildly hilarious that she now wants to try and work with NRA-backing, pro-gun Senators to pass the Violence Against Women Act after the House passed it yesterday.
One senator is a longtime foe of the National Rifle Association. The other came to national attention with a campaign ad promising to “unload” on Obamacare while firing a handgun at a shooting range. But a popular law to prevent violence against women now rides on whether California Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Iowa Republican Joni Ernst can find common ground on gun rights and several other thorny social issues.
The Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, authorizes an array of grants for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, as well as programs to support victims. First passed in 1994, the most recent version of the law expired in February, although its programs are funded through the end of the fiscal year.
The Democrat-led House — with the support of 33 Republicans — voted Thursday to pass legislation to extend and update VAWA. But the legislation faces a tenuous path in the Republican-controlled Senate, thanks in large part to the National Rifle Association or NRA, the influential lobbying group for gun rights.
The group objects, in particular, to language in the bill that expands the category of people who can be barred from possessing a gun due to domestic violence or stalking convictions. One section, for example, seeks to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” to apply the ban not only to live in-partners and spouses, but also past or present “dating partners” convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse.
The NRA argues the definitions are too broad and the legal bar is too low. Groups working against domestic violence say many crimes against women are pleaded down from a felony to a misdemeanor, which is why the bill sets the threshold at that lower category of crime.
Of course, those 33 Republicans need to be looked up and should have a very difficult time keeping their job come 2020, but that’s not important right now.
What is important is that Feinstein now wants the GOP-controlled Senate to back this bill. While 33 Republicans–probably from swing districts who don’t have a firm hold on their seat and are trying to virtue signal–did back the bill, the odds of finding that kind of Republican help in the Senate isn’t particularly strong. Feinstein needs that help to pass this anti-gun measure.
And make no mistake, it’s anti-gun. After all, why else play these kinds of games with it. As the NRA’s Jennifer Baker puts it:
“It’s a shame that Nancy Pelosi and anti-gun Democrats let the bill expire just to advance a political agenda,” NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said. “We’re hopeful that the Senate is able to reauthorize a bill that doesn’t contain unnecessary gun control provisions.”
The fact is, no one is OK with violence against women. I’m not OK with violence against anyone except in self-defense. But what House Democrats did was allow a popular bill to expire, knowing damn good and well that they intended to add a bunch of anti-gun provisions to it. They know the Senate won’t pass gun control on its own, so they’re saddling something they will support with anti-gun language.
This is little more than political bait-and-switch. To make matter worse, though, Democrats know it.
So Sen. Feinstein can look for all the help in the world, but with those anti-gun provisions in place, I hope she never finds it.