Perhaps the least surprising development in the slow progress of gun legislation in Congress was yesterday’s separate announcements by Harry Reid and Diane Feinstein that the latter’s legislation restoring the Clinton-era assault weapons ban would not be included in the former’s official Democratic gun violence bill on the Senate floor. As both noted, a head-count showed no more than 40 solid votes for the provision, which will still get a vote as a doomed amendment (Feinstein’s proposed restrictions on high-capacity ammo clips will probably meet the same fate).

But the cultural Kabuki of gun politics required that the gun lobby alternately crow over this trophy and warn the residual legislation still leads down the road to mass gun confiscation, while their enemies react in the manner typified by this headline from Mike Lupica in the New York Daily News: “Spineless pols spit on the graves of Newtown victims by not pushing for assault weapons ban.”

I don’t disagree with Lupica’s underlying sentiments, but this particular handwriting has been on the wall for months. At this point, the survival of a bill expanding gun background checks is the most that can theoretically survive the Senate, much less the gun lobby’s House redoubt. And even that would be a huge symbolic victory for those who refuse to accept the Second Amendment as permanently and absolutely warranting a heavily armed population ready to wreak violence on any government that dares challenge its self-defined “liberties.”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.