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NYT Pitches Sunny Harry Reid as Force on Gun Control, Downplays His Burial of Assault Weapons Ban

Reporter Jennifer Steinhauer's profile of Senate Majority Leader Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada on the front of Monday's New York Times portrayed Reid as a Democratic force on gun control and buried his refusal to push for a ban on "assault weapons": "As Views Shift On Guns, Reid Corrals Senate."

Steinhauer's description of Reid as "a quiet force...who skips Sunday talk shows in favor of church and lunch with his wife and remains...gaga for her after decades of marriage," would surprise those on the Hill that know him as a sour, anti-social personality with a habit of blurting out tasteless things, as when he accused Mitt Romney of not paying taxes for 10 years.

Steinhauer portrayed Reid as a Democratic force on gun control and buried his refusal to include a ban on "assault weapons" in the major gun-control bill before Congress, causing agony among liberal Democrats and commentators like CNN's Piers Morgan.

Mr. Reid’s evolution from a proponent of gun rights to the shepherd of legislation that would expand background checks, among other gun control measures, emerges from a complex web of political calculations that have come to define his leadership style over the last decade.

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Mr. Reid voted proudly against an assault weapons ban in both 1993 and 2004, even as most Senate Democrats voted for it, and voted for a successful 2005 measure that limited lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers for negligence. He has also long supported the N.R.A.

But now, in a demonstration of his loyalty to President Obama, Mr. Reid is helping him pursue his agenda for stemming gun violence. Many of the more senior members of his caucus, notably Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, also want these votes.

Steinhauer barely acknowledged how Reid helped keep down the #1 liberal gun-control priority, a ban on "assault weapons."

After the Senate returns from its recess next week, it will consider a bill that would expand background checks and increase penalties for so-called straw purchases, in which someone buys a gun for another person who is unable to buy one. Mr. Reid opted not to include in the bill a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines but plans to hold a separate vote on both measures. His hope was to not let the less popular measures jeopardize passage of the expanded background checks.

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Mr. Reid remains an enigma of sorts in Washington, a quiet force whose voice is often barely audible, who skips Sunday talk shows in favor of church and lunch with his wife and remains, by all accounts, gaga for her after decades of marriage.