WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee approved an assault weapons ban on Thursday, bringing the ban to the floor for the first time since an old version expired in 2004.
Both Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken backed the measure, as well as three other bills the committee considered over the past week. The assault weapons ban is considered the most controversial, and the least likely to pass, given opposition from Republicans (who control the House) and some moderate Democrats.
But Franken said Thursday that such opposition shouldn’t keep supporters of a ban from trying to move it forward, especially given the calls for Congress to respond to the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“I think that Sandy Hook changed where people were,” Franken said. “It was so shocking to see 20 6- and 7-year-olds gunned down in that way. So I think we’re just in a different place after that.”
Since last week, the Judiciary Committee passed four bills comprising Senate Democrats’ legislative response to Sandy Hook. Beyond the assault weapons ban, Democrats want to enact universal background checks during gun sales, create a grant program to improve school safety and impose stricter penalties for so-called “straw purchases,” in which individuals buy guns for those who legally can’t do so for themselves (The Washington Post has a good overview of the bills here).
The last two measures have bipartisan support, though gun control advocates hope to find a compromise on background checks. Franken said there could be a push to separate bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which might be more acceptable for on-the-fence lawmakers.
But as for the assault weapons ban, Franken said, “I think that right now, we’re looking at a very difficult uphill climb.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry