Committee approves tougher penalties for gun traffickers; assault weapons ban considered
POSTED: Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 11:30pm
UPDATED: Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 11:34pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — The first of several gun control bills proposed following the tragic Newtown school shootings is heading to the Senate floor for a vote.
Three others are still under debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The first bill addresses gun trafficking and would give federal officers could get a new legal tool to combat illegal gun sales.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill making gun trafficking and straw purchases a federal crime punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
Three others addressing universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and funding for school security are still under debate.
President Obama has been pressuring lawmakers to act since 20 children and six women were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
"This isn't going to stop, it is going to continue on, and we have a chance to do something about it," argues Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Lawmakers are divided, most heatedly on assault weapons, as conservatives respond to push-back from gun rights advocates who oppose new laws.
"An attempt to legislate for the entire Unites States in a one size fits all proposal is a mistake," says Texas Senator John Cornyn.
Despite a partisan divide on Capitol Hill the majority of voters want change.
The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows 51 percent support stricter gun laws.
88 percent support universal background checks specifically.
"It's one day at a time," says Brady Campaign President Dan Gross. "We are very confident in the success of anything that has the support of the American public."
But even background checks, the centerpiece of President Obama's gun campaign and a topic with overwhelming voter support, faces a battle.
Yesterday talks failed with Tom Coburn, the only Republican Senator considering his support.
All four bills are expected to clear the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In the full Senate the trafficking bill is thought to have the best chances, the assault weapons ban the least.