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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) â¿¿ The National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers are to blame for the "disconnect" between the broad public support for gun control and the reluctance in Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said Wednesday.
Speaking to a hometown audience of about 500 people in San Francisco, the California Democrat said the NRA has intimidated senators with threats that the gun lobby would spend heavily to unseat them if they support the restrictions Feinstein championed in response to the December massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
"A fear has set in that if they vote for the bill they won't be re-elected. It's that plain, it's that simple," Feinstein said during an appearance before the Commonwealth Club. "My view is they shouldn't go up to the Senate if they are unwilling to stand up and vote."
She did not mention any senators by name, but ticked off a long list of southern and western states, from Montana and Wyoming to Tennessee and Florida, where the threats would be most successful.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last month stripped the assault weapons and ammunition bans from the gun-control legislation that Democrats plan to bring to the Senate floor in coming weeks. Reid said he was worried those provisions would doom any reforms, such as expanded background checks for gun sales, but assured Feinstein he would allow them to be voted on as amendments.
Feinstein said she would press for a chance to speak on the Senate floor, where she plans to once more make the case that while military-style weapons are involved in a small percentage of gun deaths, the massacres and damage to individual bodies they can inflict "are antithetical to our values."
NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam rejected Feinstein's account of why her colleagues are not embracing her proposals.