Senators are arguing the merits of a ban on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein says recent mass shootings like the massacre of first-graders and staffers at a Connecticut elementary school makes such bans more urgent than ever. The California Democrat made the remark as the Senate Judiciary Committee began a hearing on her legislation that would ban assault weapons, as well as ammunition magazines that carry more than 10 rounds.
Feinstein says assault weapons are deadlier than they were two decades ago, when she helped enact a ban on those weapons. That prohibition expired in 2004.
But Sen. Charles Grassley questioned the ban's constitutionality and said it would take the weapons away from people who use them for self-defense. The Iowa Republican argues the government has done a poor job of enforcing current gun laws.
Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden says the primary victory of a gun control advocate to represent Illinois in Congress sends a message that voters won't stand for inaction in response to shooting violence.
Robin Kelly was elected Tuesday as the Democratic nominee to replace former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. after running on gun control. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's political fund poured $2 million into television ads against an opponent who had been highly rated by the National Rifle Association.
Biden told a gathering of state attorneys general at a Washington hotel Wednesday that voters in the Chicago-area district "sent a clear unequivocal signal" to the NRA and politicians nationwide. Biden said, quote, "The message is there will be a moral price as well as a political price for inaction."
Fighting tears, the father of one of the first graders slain in the Newtown, Conn. mass shooting is begging the Senate Judiciary Committee to ban assault weapons.
A ban is not expected to pass Congress. But the father, Neil Heslin, on Wednesday urged lawmakers to consider the prohibition his son, Jesse, who was 6 years old.
The 50-year-old construction worker said he supports the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and backs sportsmen who like using firearms. But he said the Second Amendment wasn't written a time when firearms were as sophisticated as today's assault weapons.
Heslin spoke in support of a bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would ban assault weapons. Republicans at the hearing said the ban could violate the Constitution.