Shameful and disgraceful: Democrats showed no spine on assault weapons

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Three months after the Newtown, Conn., shootings, the massacre of 20 children and six educators with an AR-15 assault rifle has faded from the public's memory -- or at least from the minds of the spineless politicians who represent them in Congress and the White House. How else to explain the decision by Senate Democratic leaders to drop a provision that would ban assault-style weapons from gun-safety legislation they plan to introduce next month?

The official explanation for this surrender is the triumph of expediency over morality. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says his party lacks the votes to bring gun legislation to the floor if an assault-weapons ban is part of it.

But Democratic leaders, including President Barack Obama, signaled more than a month ago that they were waving the white flag. Why would the gun lobby, and other opponents of the ban, negotiate with people who give up that easily?

Most Americans continue to support a ban on assault weapons. But instead of acting like leaders and marshaling popular support to pressure and shame the ban's opponents, Democrats capitulated. They wasted another chance to reinstate the federal ban that expired in 2004.

"Shameful'' and "disgraceful" are two words that come to mind about the Senate's retreat. But even they don't capture the horror of Newtown, Virginia Tech and Columbine -- and the cowardly refusal by lawmakers to do something about it.

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