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Senators spar as assault weapons ban passes panel

By a party line vote, a Senate panel has approved a ban on assault weapons, setting the legislation up for a vote next month in the full Senate.

But the bill’s prospects are not bright, as the ban – authored by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein – faces strong opposition from the National Rifle Association and other groups who say it infringes on Second Amendment rights.

The debate over the measure was marked by a fiery exchange between Feinstein -- who was the president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors at the time of the assassination of openly gay city official Harvey Milk along with the city's mayor -- and freshman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Cruz, a former Texas solicitor general who has argued before the Supreme Court, asked Feinstein if she would consider limits to other amendments in the Bill of Rights, comparing her proposal to banning books protected by the First Amendment.

“I am not a sixth grader,” Feinstein replied. “Senator, I’ve been on this committee for 20 years. I was a mayor for nine years. I walked in, I saw people shot. I’ve looked at bodies that have been shot with these weapons.”

“It’s fine you want to lecture me on the Constitution,” she added. “I appreciate it. Just know I have been here for a long time.”

Feinstein said the legislation exempts over 2000 types of weapons. 

“Isn’t that enough for the people in the United States? Do they need a bazooka?” she asked. 

Cruz continued to press Feinstein for the answer to his question as other panel members tried to chime in.

“The answer is obvious,” an exasperated Feinstein replied. “No.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure earlier this week to require all gun buyers to get a background check