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Senate Judiciary Committee OK's Ban On So-Called 'Assault Weapons


"The whole point of this bill is to reduce over time the supply, purchase, and transfer of military type weapons."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. (Getty Images).

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted 10-8 to approve a ban on so-called “assault” weapons. Every Democrat supported the bill while all eight Republicans opposed it.

However, although the bill passed the Democrat-led committee, it has little chance of making it through the Senate or the Republican-controlled House.

The committee passed the bill after rejecting a series of Republican amendments aimed at exempting victims of sexual abuse, people living along the Southwest border, and others from the prohibition.

The GOP proposals were defeated along party lines.

“There are plenty of weapons out there,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said during Thursday’s hearing. “The whole point of this bill is to reduce over time the supply, purchase, and transfer of military type weapons.”

Democrats on the committee include Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Chuck Schumer (New York), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Al Franken (Minn.), Christopher A. Coons (Del.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii).

Republicans on the committee include Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John Cornyn (Texas), Michael S. Lee (Utah), Ted Cruz (Texas), and Jeff Flake (Ariz.).

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other top Democrats, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (Vt.), will now try to craft one package out of the Feinstein proposal and other gun-related bills,” POLITICO reports.

“The Judiciary Committee has previously approved a gun-trafficking bill that expands federal sanctions for ‘straw purchasers’ of guns, as well as a universal background checks proposal. The panel also approved an additional $40 million for school safety programs,” the report adds.

President Barack Obama made a ban on “assault weapons" part of the gun curbs he proposed in January, a month after a shooter with an assault rifle killed 20 first-graders and six educators at a school in Newtown, Conn. Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and others have argued that such firearms are used in a disproportionate number of mass shootings and shouldn't be available to civilians.

The prohibition is one of the most controversial of the gun restrictions being considered in Congress. Its opponents say law-abiding citizens should not lose their Second Amendment right to own the weapons, which they say are popular for self-defense, hunting, and collecting.

But most importantly self-defense.

Thursday's debate included a fiery clash between Feinstein, the ban's author, and freshman conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), TheBlaze noted earlier.

Cruz said Feinstein's bill would create exceptions to the Second Amendment and asked her if she would favor exemptions to the First Amendment's freedom of speech by denying that right to certain books.

"I'm not a sixth-grader," said a visibly upset Feinstein. She described her decades in Congress involved in gun control debates and said, "I'm reasonably well-educated, and thank you for the lecture."

Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was seriously injured in the mass shooting that killed six people in Tucson, Ariz. two years ago, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington with husband Mark Kelly, Jan. 30, 2013, for a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Several Republicans including Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who proposed the GOP amendments that were defeated, argued that the most effective approach to curbing gun violence would be to improve how mental health records are sent to the federal system that checks backgrounds of potential gun buyers.

Cornyn also said that as a result of Feinstein's ban, criminals would still get the weapons.

"We're going to give American citizens a pea shooter to defend themselves with," Cornyn said.

Feinstein's bill would ban large-capacity ammunition magazines carrying more than 10 rounds, which she and her allies say allow shooters to inflict more casualties before pausing to reload, which is when they might be stopped. Adam Lanza, the Newtown gunman, was said to have had 30-round magazines.

Her bill would also ban semi-automatic weapons that can take a detachable magazine and have at least one “military feature” like a pistol grip.

The bill specifically bans 157 named weapons while allowing 2,258 rifles and shotguns frequently used by hunters.

The measure's passage by the Judiciary panel has been a foregone conclusion for some time. As mentioned in the above, it will be far more vulnerable in the full Senate, where Democrats are expected to need 60 votes for passage through the 100-member chamber.

Final Thought: Just so we’re absolutely clear, the Senate Judiciary Committee in its ongoing attempts to curb gun violence has so far voted in favor of a) universal background checks, b) an "assault weapons" ban, and c) limits on magazine size.



Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Featured image Getty Images.

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