It was only the sharp wits of Seevakumaran’s room-mate that spared the US another massacre. He locked himself in the bathroom and called 911; as the SWAT team arrived minutes later the would-be gunman turned his rifle on himself and, before he had the chance to take anyone else’s life, ended his own.
A few hours later, Harry Reid, the majority leader in the US Senate, called his fellow Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein into his office and gave her some disappointing news. He told her that the chances of success of the bill she had sponsored – a ban on the sale of the type of assault rifle that Seevakumaran had just come so close to using – were so remote that he had decided to drop it from the gun control legislation that he will be bringing to the Senate floor next month.
Reid’s dumping of Feinstein’s assault weapons ban marks the first stage in the epic political struggle over guns prompted by the Newtown school tragedy in December, in which 20 children and six teachers were killed. Round one goes to the pro-gun lobby and its cheerleader, the National Rifle Association.
Now, almost exactly 100 days after the Sandy Hook massacre, round two begins. The stakes are even higher. On Thursday night, Reid indicated that unlike the assault weapons ban, he would be including in his bill a provision to extend federal background checks to all gun sales.
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