Dianne Feinstein, the long-serving Democrat U.S. senator from California and gun control advocate who spearheaded the first federal assault weapons ban and documented the CIA’s torture of foreign terrorism suspects, has died at 90, multiple media outlets reported Friday.
Feinstein’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the news, first reported by the Punchbowl news outlet.
Feinstein was a Washington trail-blazer who became the first woman to head the influential Senate Intelligence Committee.
During almost 31 years in Senate she amassed a moderate-to-liberal record, sometimes drawing scorn from the left. Feinstein joined the Senate in 1992 after winning a special election and was re-elected five times including in 2018, along the way becoming the longest-serving woman senator ever.
Feinstein’s political career was shaped by guns.
She became San Francisco’s mayor in 1978 upon the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. Feinstein was president of the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors when Moscone and Milk were gunned down by a former supervisor, Dan White. After hearing the gunshots, she rushed to Milk’s office. While searching for his pulse, her finger found a bullet hole.
Feinstein said the horror of that experience never left her and she went on to author the federal ban on military-style assault weapons that lasted from 1994 until its 2004 expiration. White killed Moscone and Milk with a .38-caliber revolver.
“This is a gun-happy nation, and everybody can have their gun,” Feinstein said after a May 2021 mass shooting in her home state as she lamented years of congressional failure to pass new gun control laws to guard against “the killing of innocents.”
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