The Senate Judiciary Committee approved today a proposal by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to expand background checks. The proposal passed committee by a 10-8 vote due to support from Democrats. Schumer is said to be working with Republican Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) on rewriting the background check bill to attract more bipartisan support, an act that has upset the ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa):
"We were told there was such widespread support for universal background checks that a bipartisan bill would be on its inevitable way to passage. Instead, three of the four senators involved in those discussions do not endorse this bill."
The background proposal would expand background checks to include private sales between individuals. It would also require states and federal agencies to report records concerning convicted felons, individuals with major mental health problems, and drug abusers to the federal background check system. Schumer says the bill explicitly says there will be no national registration or confiscation of guns. The bill also exempts transactions between family members and weapons loaned out for sport.
Another proposal to enhance school safety passed with more bipartisan support with a vote of 14-4. That bill would increase the amount of money dedicated to school safety initiatives to $40 million dollars. Last week the panel voted 11-7 to crack down on "straw" purchases of weapons. This would prohibit individuals from buying guns from people legally not allowed to have them.
The committee is expected to finish full consideration of the other components of the assault weapons ban on March 14. This will include whether or not to ban high-capacity magazines. The three bills must move out of committee before heading to the Senate floor for full consideration. If they make it out of the Senate they will move to the Republican-controlled House.
There is no question that the final bill(s) will look substantially different than what we are now seeing passed in Democratic controlled Senate Judicial Committee. Whether or not that's good or bad remains up for debate.