Senate panel ready to OK gun background checks

March 12, 2013 9:02:38 AM



WASHINGTON -- Democrats are ready to muscle expanded background checks and other gun curbs through a Senate committee, giving President Barack Obama an initial if temporary victory on one of his top priorities. 


The Senate Judiciary Committee was to debate a bill Tuesday that would broaden the requirement for federal background checks to nearly all firearms purchasers. It was also considering a ban on assault weapons and an increase in federal aid for school security, though senators may not consider the assault weapons measure until later in the week. 


Requiring background checks for private gun transactions between individuals -- they're currently mandatory only for sales by licensed dealers -- is a centerpiece of Obama's proposal to reduce firearms violence. The system is designed to prevent criminals, people with severe mental problems and others from getting guns. 


Tuesday's meeting comes five days after the panel approved Congress' first gun control measure since December's carnage at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that left 26 students and educators dead. That bill, by the Judiciary Committee's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and others, establishes long prison terms for illegal gun traffickers and straw purchasers, people who buy a firearm for criminals or others forbidden to buy one. 


The Judiciary Committee is expected to approve all three bills it is debating this week, with full Senate consideration next month.