WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved stiff federal penalties for illegally trafficking guns.
It's the first vote in Congress to curb firearms since December's horrific shootings at a Connecticut elementary school.
The bill is sponsored by committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont. It would create penalties of up to 25 years in prison for people who buy guns for others who use them in a crime.
The vote was 11 to 7, with Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa the only Republican to support it.
The panel is also debating bills requiring federal background checks for nearly all gun purchases; banning assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines; and boosting federal aid for school safety programs.
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Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy says it's time for Congress to take steps to reduce gun violence.
The Vermont Democrat made the remark as the Judiciary panel began debating four bills aimed at restricting firearms. All are expected to pass the committee, though it is unclear whether all will be voted on during Thursday's session.
The bills would expand required federal background checks to nearly all gun purchases; ban assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines; create a federal crime for illegal gun trafficking; and boost federal aid for school safety programs.
Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa is the committee's top Republican. He says everyone wants to prevent more incidents like the December killings in Newtown, Conn.. But the Republican says Congress should not curb law-abiding citizens' rights to bear arms.
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