Jackie Kucinich and Catalina Camia, USA TODAY
A Senate panel on Thursday passed a ban on assault weapons, but the measure will face stiff resistance from Republicans and some Democrats on the floor.
The Senate Judiciary Committee's 10 Democrats voted for the bill, while its eight Republicans were opposed.
The controversial measure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. would ban 157 military-style weapons and large-capacity magazines that carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Feinstein and freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, had a heated exchange during the committee's debate over the Second Amendment. "Senator, I am not a sixth grader," she shot back at Cruz, denouncing what she called a "lecture."
Feinstein gained national prominence in 1978 when her San Francisco colleagues, Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, were assassinated. She became mayor and has been fighting for gun-control measures ever since.
The Judiciary Committee previously approved several gun-control measures, all of which were drafted in the wake of the mass shooting on Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn. Twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the incident has been held up by President Obama and others as a reason for new gun legislation.
Feinstein told reporters Wednesday that opposition from the National Rifle Association stands in the way of the assault weapons ban. She is encouraging a renewed push by Obama to get her bill passed.
Republicans such as Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, are concerned the gun ban proposal would take away the rights of gun owners and could be overturned on constitutional grounds. Democrats such as Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas are also opposed to a new assault weapons ban.
The original assault weapons ban passed in 1994 and expired in 2004.