Gun legislation approved by Senate Judiciary Committee

A man holds a Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. A man holds a Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. (Feb. 4, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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WASHINGTON -- Legislation to outlaw trafficking and "straw purchases" of firearms was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday -- making it the first gun bill Congress has voted on since the deadly Newtown, Conn., school shootings in December.

The bill, whose sponsors include Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), won approval in a 11-7 vote that included all of the committee's Democrats and its top Republican, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley. The other Republicans voted no.

President Barack Obama called it "another big step towards sensible gun safety reforms," and he urged lawmakers to give the measure -- and other gun-related bills -- votes on the House and Senate floor.

Gun control groups also praised the bill. The National Rifle Association did not respond to a request for comment after the vote.

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The bill would create new federal offenses for gun trafficking and straw purchasing, in which a person buys a firearm for a felon or someone who can't legally obtain a gun.

It was the only bill to get a vote in the committee Thursday. It is one of the few gun-related bills to emerge since the Newtown shootings to gain Republican support.

"Cracking down on gun trafficking and keeping illegal guns off our streets to save lives is not a Republican or Democratic idea; it is just a good idea," said Gillibrand.

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On Monday, Judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) unveiled the legislation, which combined his anti-trafficking bill with a bill crafted by Gillibrand and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

The legislation won what its sponsors say could be the significant support of Grassley -- a gun rights proponent with a top rating from the NRA -- after his amendment limiting the bill was accepted.

Grassley said he voted for the measure because Gillibrand and Leahy took out provisions he said would apply to "law-abiding citizens," not just criminals.

The Senate is not expected to take up any gun bills until next month. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the House would act after the Senate.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet Tuesday to continue debating and amending three other gun bills: a universal gun-buyer background check sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), an assault weapons ban, and school safety equipment funding.

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