By Curtis Tate
WASHINGTON -- In a speech to a mostly empty Senate chamber, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., all but conceded Wednesday that her long push to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines would not succeed.
The Senate was to vote Wednesday on a series of amendments to a broader gun bill spurred by December's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed.
"Not every issue we vote on in the Senate is a life or death matter -- I believe this is," Feinstein said. "I urge my colleagues to stand tall and support this amendment."
But few senators were present during Feinstein's 30-minute speech. One was Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat who was presiding over the empty chamber. She opposed Feinstein's amendment.
Other amendments, including a measure to expand criminal background checks to gun shows and Internet sales, were also expected to fail, as was an effort by gun-rights supporters to require states to respect concealed-carry gun permits issued by other states.
Feinstein, who led a successful push for an assault weapons ban nearly 20 years ago, said that if the Senate didn't act, states would, creating a patchwork of laws.
"If this bill goes, down, I believe states will pass other legislation," she said. "It is only a question of time."
PHOTO CREDIT: This video frame grab provided by Senate Television shows Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., as she speaks about gun legislation, Wednesday, April 17, 2013, on the floor of the Senate in Washington. (AP Photo/ Senate Television)