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.
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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.
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.
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.).
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 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.