Months after Adam Lanza massacred 20 children and six educators at a Connecticut elementary school -- reportedly using an AR-15 assault rifle with a 30-round magazine -- media pundits, Congress and President Barack Obama appear to be giving up on renewing the assault weapons ban.
A shortsighted surrender to the ban's intractable opponents threatens to undermine efforts to reduce violence, especially the kind of carnage that horrified the nation at Newtown, Virginia Tech and Columbine.
Even the ban's supporters seem willing to accept the status quo on assault weapons -- provided they can secure politically more palatable gains, such as universal background checks, penalties for straw purchases and a ban on high-capacity magazines.
Such measures ought to become part of any sensible package on gun control. Still, they don't mitigate the need to ban the civilian use of weapons that have no legitimate use for hunters, and are designed to kill as many people as quickly as possible.
Easy access to such weapons enables a deranged person to commit mass murder. Banning high-capacity magazines, while helpful, does not eliminate the power of these guns to slaughter people.
The federal ban on military-style assault weapons expired in 2004. With the support of the Obama administration, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, proposed a new ban on numerous assault-style weapons, as well as ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
The prospects for renewing and bolstering the assault weapons ban are not good. Even Democratic senators who face re-election campaigns in pro-gun states see it as political poison. Still, despite the powerful gun lobby, the president has the support of most Americans. It's time for Mr. Obama to lead, not surrender.
Politics is the art of the possible. At some point, proponents of an assault weapons ban might have to give up and take whatever other measures they can get. But just months after one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, it's too soon to give up.