Capitol Alert

De León tangles with Feinstein over her signature issue – gun control

Tangling with Sen. Dianne Feinstein over one of her signature issues, California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said Sunday that the United States can prevent mass killings like the one last week in Las Vegas by “getting weapons designed for the battlefield out of our neighborhoods.”

De León, a Los Angeles Democrat weighing a challenge to Feinstein next year, was responding to her comments on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” where the longtime gun-control advocate and author of the 1993 ban on assault weapons was asked whether any law could have stopped the Las Vegas shooter.

“No,” Feinstein replied. “He passed background checks registering for handguns and other weapons on multiple occasions.”

Still, she’s pushing a proposed ban on “bump stock” devices that allow semi-automatic rifles to fire more rapidly. Feinstein said on the program that she has 38 Democratic co-sponsors, along with some Republican interest.

The National Rifle Association is open to a regulatory review on the devices, though Feinstein believes a law is needed. “And I would hope that Americans will step up and say ‘Enough is enough. Congress, do something,’” she said.

While Feinstein and de León appear to largely agree on the issue, his willingness to inject himself into the debate by pinpointing perceived deficiencies in her answers presages a broader strategy of exposing the significant daylight in their approaches.

This is the second time in recent months that de León has seized on a Feinstein remark to draw a contrast between them. Speaking in San Francisco in August, Feinstein said Donald Trump still has time to change to become a “good president.”

“I think we have to have some patience. I do,” she said at the Commonwealth Club event.

De León shot back that “this president has not shown any capacity to learn and proven he is not fit for office.”

“I don’t think children who breathe dirty air can afford patience,” he said. “The LGBT worker or woman losing their rights by the day or the black student who could be assaulted on the street, they can’t afford patience. DREAMers who are unsure of their fate in this country can’t afford patience. Even a Trump voter who is still out of work can’t afford to be patient.”

In his statement on guns, De León acknowledged that government “can’t prevent murderous intentions,” but he suggested that “banning a device that makes a weapon an illegal machine gun is the very least we can do.” He said the U.S. also must restore Feinstein’s assault weapons ban.

“We may not succeed in the short term, but we will surely fail if we give up,” he said, noting his decade-long push on legislation to prevent criminals from purchasing ammunition.

“It was a long and frustrating road, but giving up was never an option,” he added. “Persistence is something we owe our constituents and kids.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago