U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) speaks next to a display of assault weapons during a news conference January 24, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Feinstein announced that she will introduce a bill to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds to help to stop gun violence (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Jackie Kucinich, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - A Senate panel is poised Tuesday to pass a bill that would ban assault weapons and place limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as two other measures aimed at reducing gun violence.
The Senate Judiciary Committee continues its efforts to move legislation aimed at addressing mass shootings like the one at a Connecticut elementary school that left 20 children and six adults dead on Dec. 14. Besides the measure to ban 157 types of military-style assault weapons, also on tap Tuesday are a bill to expand background checks on all gun purchases and legislation to increase federal grant money for school safety improvements.
Given the panel's Democratic majority, all of the bills are expected to pass. Each measure, however, faces varying levels of uncertainty on the Senate floor in their current forms, especially the proposed assault weapons ban. The bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is opposed by the National Rifle Association as well as Republicans and Democrats who hail from states with high gun-ownership rates.
Last week, the panel voted 11-7 to approve a bill that would crack down on "straw" purchases of weapons by making the practice a crime. In such instances, people buy guns for those who are prohibited from doing so. The bill passed on a mostly party-line vote, with Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa joining the panel's 10 Democrats to support the measure.
The background check legislation authored by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will likely be changed in the coming weeks to reflect bipartisan negotiations between Schumer and Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill.
The school safety bill by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., could have an easier time on the Senate floor. The measure, which is supported by GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, would reauthorize a 50-50 federal matching grant program that would help schools make safety improvements.
It was criticized as too expensive if it authorizes $100 million in funding over 10 years. An amendment will be offered in committee to cut the costs to $40 million.
(Contributing: Catalina Camia)