News Column

Gun Ban Faces Uphill Battle in Senate

March 15, 2013

Evan Vucci, AP

A Senate panel approved a ban on assault weapons Thursday, but the measure will face stiff resistance from Republicans and some Democrats on the Senate floor.

The Senate Judiciary Committee's 10 Democrats voted for the bill, while its eight Republicans were opposed.

It is the fourth gun-related bill to pass the committee in the past two weeks as a part of the congressional effort to curb gun violence in the wake of the December mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters Thursday he had spoken to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., after the hearing to plan the next steps.

"He and I are going to sit down, find out now what has been reported out of the committee and what we need to put together as a base bill to start legislating on the Senate floor," Reid said. "And that's what we'll do."

While the timing of the floor votes is still unknown, the controversial measure proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., which would ban 157 military-style weapons and magazines that carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition, is considered doomed. It will face bipartisan opposition in the Senate and has essentially no chance of passage in the House. Republicans such as Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, are concerned the gun ban proposal would take away the rights of gun owners. Democrats, such as Arkansas' Sen. Mark Pryor, are also opposed to a new assault weapons ban.

The original assault weapons ban passed in 1994 and expired in 2004.

Bills that strengthen laws against gun trafficking and "straw purchasing" -- buying a gun to transfer it to someone who is prohibited from making the purchase -- and increase funding for school-safety programs have brighter futures in both chambers. Both measures have bipartisan support and, so far, have raised few objections among the staunchest gun rights advocates.

A bipartisan group of senators, led by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has yet to introduce compromise legislation to extend federal background checks to nearly every gun purchase. Schumer, along with Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., hopes to attract more Republican support for a bill before formally introducing a final version.

Thursday's meeting became heated at times as junior Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas challenged the constitutionality of the gun ban. He asked whether Feinstein would consider it constitutional for Congress to impose specific limitations to the First and Fourth Amendments, instead of the Second.

"Let me just make a couple of points. One, I'm not a sixth-grader," Feinstein shot back. "It's fine if you want to lecture me on the Constitution, I appreciate it. Just know I've been here for a long time; I've passed a number of bills; I've studied the Constitution myself; I'm reasonably well-educated and I thank you for the lecture."

President Obama said in a statement, "The Senate has now advanced legislation addressing three of the most important elements of my proposal to help reduce the epidemic of gun violence in this country. ... Each of these proposals deserves a vote."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein's measure would ban 157 military-style weapons.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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