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Senators clash over need to ban assault weapons

WASHINGTON (AP) — Recent mass shootings like the massacre of first-graders and staffers at a Connecticut elementary school and the increasing deadliness of assault weapons make a ban on those firearms more urgent than ever, the Senate author of a proposal to prohibit them said Wednesday.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., made the remark as the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on her proposal, which would also bar ammunition magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds.

But the bruising, difficult path through Congress that the proposal will have was illustrated when the Judiciary panel's top Republican challenged the need for the assault weapons ban. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, questioned the ban's constitutionality and said it would take the weapons away from people who use them for self-defense.

Further underscoring the roadblocks that gun control legislation faces in Congress, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Wednesday that he opposes universal background checks for gun purchases, a central piece of President Barack Obama's plan for curbing gun violence. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., told reporters that the proposal could lead to creation of a federal gun registry — which the Obama administration has said will not happen.

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