Panel likely to vote on gun bills next week

| Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, 8:27 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee appears all but certain to start voting on an assault weapons ban and other gun curbs next week, Congress' first roll calls in response to the Newtown, Conn., slayings of 26 students and staff at an elementary school in December.

The Democratic-written bills largely follow President Obama's proposals for limiting gun violence, which have been opposed by the National Rifle Association and generated little support from congressional Republicans.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the committee chairman, said he would consider evolving legislation expanding the requirement for federal background checks for gun purchases, which are now required only for transactions by federally licensed gun dealers. Requiring those checks for nearly all gun sales is a top Obama goal, and one that has received the broadest support by the public and in Congress.

The details of the bill are not yet complete as liberal Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Senate Democratic leader, continues trying to reach a compromise with conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

Leahy announced plans for the panel to start voting on the measures on Thursday. But committee rules let senators postpone announced legislative work for a week, a practice that is followed routinely. The panel's top Republican, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, said he would request that delay.

“It's just a process of making sure we have plenty of time to study” legislation, Grassley said.

Feinstein is chairing a Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday on her effort to ban assault weapons, a proposal that is given low odds of enactment because of opposition by many Republicans and resistance by some moderate Democrats.

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