U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein Dies at Age 90

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., smiles after announcing the introduction of a Senate bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Dianne Feinstein was a Democratic U.S. senator from California, who served six terms in Congress from 1992 to her death.

Dianne Feinstein’s legacy

A moderate who valued bipartisan cooperation, Feinstein was particularly known for her strong support of gun control. In 2018, she played a key role in the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, having received and later publicized a letter from Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Feinstein and Senator Barbara Boxer, first elected on the same ballot, were California’s first female senators as well as the first pair of women senators to represent any state at the same time. Before her career in Congress, Feinstein was mayor of San Francisco from 1978 to 1988, the city’s first female mayor, and she was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 1970 to 1978.

Feinstein was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in her 30s, later becoming president of the board. As a board member, she became the target of terrorist groups: The New World Liberation Front left a bomb on her windowsill, which didn’t detonate thanks to a sudden cold snap, and the Environmental Life Force later shot out the windows of her home. Feinstein was president of the board when San Francisco Mayor George Moscone (1929–1978) and board member Harvey Milk (1930–1978) were assassinated. Feinstein was the person who discovered Milk’s body, and later that day, she announced the news of the assassination. As president of the Board of Supervisors, Feinstein became mayor pro-tem, serving out the rest of Moscone’s term before being elected in 1979 and again in 1983.

Feinstein was the author of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, prompted by a mass shooting at a San Francisco law firm that left eight people dead and another six injured. After the bill expired in 2004, Feinstein tried several times to reauthorize it and to introduce new legislation restricting assault weapons, though she was unsuccessful. Studies found that although the assault weapons ban didn’t significantly reduce overall gun deaths in the U.S., it appears to have reduced the number and frequency of mass shootings during the 10 years it was in effect.

Feinstein on gun control

“This is not an esoteric subject for me. My life experience is such that I have seen firsthand what guns have done. I’ve walked in on robberies. I became mayor of San Francisco as a result of assassination.” —from “Nine and Counting: The Women of the Senate”


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