WASHINGTON - A Senate panel on Tuesday approved two gun-control measures, but postponed action on a proposed ban on assault weapons and a limit on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
A bill that would enhance background checks on prospective gun owners passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line, 10-8 vote. Another measure to improve safety at schools passed on a 14-4 vote.
All of the legislation is aimed at addressing mass shootings like the one at a Connecticut elementary school that left 20 children and six adults dead on Dec. 14.
Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he expects the panel to move the assault weapons bill by the end of the week. That measure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., which would ban 157 types of military-style assault weapons, faces tough opposition from the National Rifle Association. Senators in both political parties, including Democrats hailing from states with high gun-ownership rates, are also opposed to the assault weapons ban.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he is working with Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., on retooling the background check bill so that it might attract bipartisan support when it is considered on the Senate floor.
The school safety bill by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., could have an easier time in the full Senate. 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. Senators are trying to cut the costs. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also said he will try to get the bill changed so it devotes money to hiring resource officers at schools.
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.