US lawmakers dropped an effort to include a ban on assault weapons in a broader gun control package Tuesday, conceding the difficulties of passing such legislation through Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, as proposed in the wake of last year's mass murder of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, did not have the votes to pass.
Senator Dianne Feinstein a member of President Barack Obama's Democrats, had tabled the ban, and it had won support from many members of her party, but not enough fellow senators to pass the 100-member chamber.
"Right now her amendment, using the most optimistic numbers, has less than 40 votes," Reid said. "I have to get something on the floor so we can have votes on that issue."
Controversial bills need 60 votes to ensure that they are not derailed by a filibuster, a parliamentary maneuver to prevent them coming to the vote.
Democrats had sought Republican support for four measures, including that background checks be required for all gun sales, that they hoped to cobble together into one bill.
The assault weapons ban, backed by the White House, passed out of committee last week on a strict party-line vote. It could be voted on separately, but it is expected to fail.
The other three bills have a chance of winning some modest Republican support and have better odds of getting through both houses of Congress.
Feinstein has admitted that her amendment faced a steep road from the start, given the opposition from even some Democrats in traditionally conservative rural states where guns are popular for hunting and sport.
It would have been a reprisal of her 1994 assault weapons ban, a bill that only squeaked through Congress because it included a sunset provision that caused it to expire in 2004.
The Feinstein measure would have prohibited the manufacture, import and sale of 157 models of assault weapons, including the one used on December 14 to kill 20 schoolchildren and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Currently only seven states and the capital Washington prohibit such guns.