(CNN) – With Congress grappling over gun legislation, Vice President Joe Biden vowed to continue fighting for a ban on semi-automatic firearms modeled after military assault weapons, despite its bleak future on Capitol Hill.
His words echoed similar refrains made by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who spearheaded the assault weapons ban in this Congress. The California Democrat pledged not to "lay down and play dead" amid calls to keep the ban out of a larger gun package.
The ban, categorically opposed by the National Rifle Association, would get fewer than 40 votes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday, far below the threshold needed to defeat a filibuster or pass the Senate.
Instead, Feinstein could propose the ban as an amendment to the gun legislation on the Senate floor in order to get a vote on it, Reid said.
"The same thing was told to me when the first assault weapons ban in 1994 was attached to the Biden crime bill," Biden said. "That it couldn't possibly pass. It was declared dead several times."
The bill eventually passed and remained law until 2004, when it expired. Feinstein was also a key player in that legislation.
In the wake of the Newtown elementary school shooting, President Barack Obama and Biden made a series of proposals to combat gun violence, including an assault weapons ban and a limit to ammunition feeding devices.
"Attitudes are changing and I think the president and I are going to continue to push and we haven't given up on it," Biden said Wednesday.
The vice president will appear at an event Thursday in New York with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Newtown families in an attempt to push new federal gun laws, as debate nears in the Senate and some key provisions struggle for support.
The most likely of all proposals floated in Washington seems to be an expanded background check system that covers all transactions, including private sales at gun shows. A Senate committee approved the measure last week, and it now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
Critics of the assault weapons ban point to the fact that a vast majority of gun deaths are a result of handguns. They question whether banning semi-automatic firearms would solve the problem.
"No, you are not fixing the problem," Biden said. "That is like saying, does it make any sense to ban cigarette smoking while you still have global warming going on? C'mon. Does that fix the environmental problem? No. But it saves some people's lives."
As for limits to high capacity magazines, Biden took issue with those who say limiting the number of rounds to a magazine places large burdens on gun owners.
"What is the downside of saying you can have clips with only 10 rounds in it? What does that violate? Hunting? Sportsmanship? If you need more than 10 rounds to hunt, and some argue they hunt with that many rounds, you shouldn't be hunting," he said.
"If you can't get the deer in three shots, you shouldn't be hunting. You are an embarrassment."
If the only measure that comes out of the Senate is an expanded background check law, Biden said that would still be "gigantic."
The NRA opposed the background check measure from the Brady legislation in '94, Biden said, but it ultimately worked.
"They said felons will never go and get a background check to buy a gun," the vice president said. "Two million felons have tried to buy a gun, and because of the background check have been denied."
He also pushed back against arguments that an expanded background check system would lead to a registry, a system Biden said he was not interested in.
"When you go to registration, it raises all the black helicopter crowd notion that what this is all about is identifying who has a gun so that one day the government can get up and go to the house and arrest everyone who has a gun, and they'll cite Nazi Germany and all that," he said.
- CNN's Steve Brusk and Tom Cohen contributed to this report.