Senate Committee OKs Gun Background-Check Bill

ABC News

The Senate Judiciary Committee today passed a universal gun background-check bill on a strictly party-line vote: 10 to 8.

The committee also voted for a bill that would enhance school-safety initiatives with bipartisan support in a 14-4 vote. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, were the Republicans voting to pass the bill. The committee will finish its consideration of the assault-weapons ban Thursday.

No Republicans voted in favor of the background check bill, which faced a snag last week after Republicans backed off negotiations with the bill's sponsor, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., was initially in talks with Schumer about the bill but ended his conversations with the New York senator last week. Sens. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Joe Manchin, D-W.V., also said they could not support the bill as it's written. The bill will now head to the Senate floor with language that might not pass.

Schumer told the committee that he is open to negotiations with senators to amend the bill before it receives a final vote.

"I've been talking and am continuing to talk with colleagues across the political spectrum and across the aisle about a compromise approach and I remain optimistic that we'll be able to roll one out. But we're not 100 percent there yet," Schumer said in the committee meeting today.

Current legislation only requires background checks to be performed when guns are purchased by licensed dealers. Schumer's bill would expand the requirement of background checks to private sales between individuals.

Republicans have voiced concern about the bill leading to national registration and confiscation and infringing upon the rights of lawful gun owners.

"This bill would unnecessarily burden private sales," Grassley, the committee's ranking member, said. "I think it has unintended consequence. Obviously, criminals still get guns. They obtain them because they do not comply with background checks.

"The bill greatly restricts the right of law-abiding citizens," he added.

Schumer said, "It's sad. Right after Newtown, there was a view that maybe the right place that we could all come together on was background checks because background checks, unlike some of the other proposals here, which I support, do not interfere with the law-abiding citizens' right to bear arms.

"The argument that my colleagues make that, 'Well, they'll still be people who will get around the law,' that's true. This isn't going to be a perfect bill but it will sure reduce crimes."

A new ABC News-Washington Post poll released today showed that 91 percent of the public supports a universal background-check bill.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill last week that makes "straw" purchases illegal, the first gun measure since the December shooting deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.