WASHINGTON – In a 10-8 party line vote with both of Minnesota’s Democratic senators voting with the majority, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved the final elements of the most broad-ranging gun control proposals to receive congressional attention in nearly 20 years.
The bill approved on Thursday includes a ban on many assault-style weapons and would also limit ammunition magazines for semiautomatic weapons to 10 rounds.
“I think that what we’ve seen in these mass murders of late is the use of these assault weapons, and I think that this will save lives,” said DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken after the vote.
Franken said he didn’t “disparage” owners of those weapons, many of whom he described as veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were simply comfortable with the guns, but “this is about going forward” to prevent gun massacres such as the December shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last December in which 26 students and teachers were killed.
While the legislation would ban the sale, manufacture and importation of assault-style semiautomic weapons and large ammunition clips, those currently in possession of those weapons and clips could still keep theirs.
Franken conceded that with so many weapons in circulation, future mass shootings were still possible.
“Are we going to see these mass murders go to zero? No, we’re not. But I think if we can save one life or a few lives by doing this, then I think it’s worth it,” said Franken.
The bill now heads to the Senate floor along with a set of other gun control bills the committee approved in the past two weeks to expand background checks, make it a federal crime to traffic guns and expand school safety programs. No time has yet been scheduled for the full chamber to debate the legislation, which is likely to face stiff opposition from many Republican lawmakers.
Should the bills pass the Senate, the Republican-controlled House will also have to take them up. Franken believed the House might approve the expanded background checks, gun trafficking and school safety bills but said that the assault weapons ban would face “a very difficult uphill climb” in the House.