Three months after a Bushmaster AR-15 was the primary weapon used to kill 20 children in Newtown, Conn., the assault weapons ban overcame a major hurdle Thursday when it passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 10 to 8.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would ban 150 specifically named military-style weapons, rifles and handguns. It also prohibits the sale of semi-automatic guns that have detachable magazines over 10 rounds, and military-assault weapons that have flash suppressors or pistol grips.
While Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced a wide range of amendments Thursday to give Americans more flexibility to own assault weapons for self protection Thursday, they were all defeated along party lines.
"Why would we turn a law-abiding citizen into a criminal?" Cornyn argued. "If the criminal element is going to be using weapons like this, it is not much satisfaction that criminals are going to have access [to these weapons] and we are going to give the American people a pea shooter."
Feinstein argued that her bill exempts "100 pages" worth of weapons and grandfathers in more than 2,000 weapons.
"There are plenty of weapons out there," Feinstein said.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he lives in a rural area but still feels very comfortable that he could defend himself with the guns he has at home.
"A zombie assault, that is a different thing," Leahy joked during a light-hearted reprieve from the tense meeting.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, categorized his opposition to the assault weapons ban as an infringement of the Constitution, but his lecture-driven indictment rubbed Feinstein the wrong way.
"I am not a sixth grader," Feinstein rebutted. "It's fine if you want to lecture me. Just know I have been here for a long time."
Republicans repeatedly pointed to the 1994 ban as evidence that the assault weapons ban was ineffective and made their case that Americans need military-style weapons to protect themselves from assaults and domestic violence.
"The crooks are going to get the guns and in case you have to ever meet one of these crooks I want you to be able to defend yourself," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Feinstein, meanwhile, doubled down on Vice President Joe Biden's advice to grab a shotgun for self defense.
Now the assault weapons ban will have its day on the Senate floor where not only Republicans, but moderate Democrats from conservative-leaning states as well, are poised to vote against the measure.
"The road is uphill and I fully understand that," Feinstein acknowledged. "Are we going to stand with the victims of gun violence?"
Senators may separate the ban on high-capacity magazines from the assault weapons ban in an effort to pass at least one gun-control provision.