(WASHINGTON) — The Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of the assault weapons ban bill — the most controversial of the gun measures considered since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The assault weapons ban, which was sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., passed on a strictly party-line vote — 10-8 — and faced fierce opposition from Republicans on the committee, at one point turning personal when Sen. Ted Cruz, R- Texas, questioned Feinstein about the constitutionality of her bill.
“The question that I would pose to the senior senator from California is would she deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment?” Cruz asked. “Would she consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights? Likewise, would she think that the Fourth Amendment’s protection against searches and seizures could properly apply only to the following specified individuals and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?”
“I’m not a sixth grader,” Feinstein said in response. “Senator, I’ve been on this committee for 20 years. I was a mayor for nine years. I walked in, I saw people shot. I’ve looked at bodies that have been shot with these weapons. I’ve seen the bullets that implode. In Sandy Hook, youngsters were dismembered.”
“I’m not a lawyer, but after 20 years I’ve been up close and personal to the Constitution. I have great respect for it. This doesn’t mean that weapons of war and the Heller decision clearly points out three exceptions, two of which are pertinent here,” she said. “It’s fine you want to lecture me on the Constitution. I appreciate it. Just know I’ve been here for a long time. I’ve passed on a number of bills. I’ve studied the Constitution myself. I am reasonably well educated, and I thank you for the lecture.”
“Congress is in the business of making law. The Supreme Court interprets the law,” she said.
Feinstein later apologized to Cruz for her response to him, saying “Senator I want to apologize to you. You sort of got my dander up and that happens on occasion.”
In response to Cruz’s argument, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. pointed out that some pornographic materials are not guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Feinstein’s bill calls for the banning of semi-automatic weapons with at least one military feature and specifically names 157 weapons which would be prohibited. It additionally bans high capacity magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds.
The assault weapons ban was the final gun measure passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee over the past week. On Tuesday, the committee voted in favor of a bill which enhances school safety and a background check bill, which along with the assault weapons ban, will face opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats on the Senate floor. Last week, the committee passed a gun trafficking bill which makes “straw” purchasing illegal.
Each of these bills will now face consideration on the Senate floor, likely next month.
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