Dianne Feinstein ... "I tried my best."

Dianne Feinstein ... "I tried my best." Photo: Getty Images

WASHINGTON: US Senate Democratic leaders have dropped a proposal to ban assault-style weapons from gun-safety legislation they plan to introduce next month.

Instead, the ban's sponsor, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, will be given a chance to offer the measure as an amendment to gun legislation that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will put on the floor, second-ranking Democrat Dick Durbin told reporters in Washington.

‘‘I tried my best,’’ Senator Feinstein said, adding that Senator Reid had informed her this week  her measure would not be included in the main legislation. ‘‘My best I guess wasn’t good enough.’’

"Harry believes we need 60 votes, clearly, to bring any gun-safety bill to the floor," Senator Durbin said. "The most problematic element is assault weapons."

Senator Reid said he was trying to craft legislation that would ensure votes on banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, expanding background checks for gun purchases, bolstering federal aid for school safety and toughening penalties for illegal firearms trafficking.

"But I cannot do that until I get a bill on the floor," Senator Reid said. The assault-weapon ban did not have 40 votes in the Senate, he said.

Senator Reid said he wanted to have legislation ready next month after the Senate returns from recess.

Senator Durbin said it was his understanding that Senator Reid would offer legislation containing three main elements: on background checks, school safety and trafficking.

At least six senators in the 55-member Senate Democratic caucus have expressed scepticism or outright opposition to an assault-weapons ban.

Their opposition would doom chances for the measure to gain a 51-vote majority, much less attain the 60-vote supermajority needed for major legislation to advance in the Senate.

Lawmakers are considering tougher gun restrictions in response to the December 14 shooting at a Connecticut elementary school in which 20 children and six school employees were killed. Backers of gun restrictions say it will be difficult to pass any measure limiting weapons ownership either in the Senate or the Republican-led House.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on March 14 approved a measure to ban assault weapons and place limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines. The vote was 10-8, with only Democrats in support.

Bloomberg, New York Times