By Ed O'Keefe
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — The debate over banning military-style assault weapons got ugly and personal on Capitol Hill on Thursday as lawmakers traded barbs over the bill's potential effects on Second Amendment rights.
The argument came as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepared to approve the measure, which would ban almost 160 specific military-style rifles and shotguns and limit the size of ammunition clips to 10 rounds.
The bill advanced on a party-line vote of 10 to 8.
Before the vote, the bill's chief sponsor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., sparred with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a lawyer by training and a former solicitor general of Texas.
Cruz began by reviewing the historic origins of the Bill of Rights and then asked whether the proposed firearm restrictions might be compared to placing limits on the First Amendment right to free speech or the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
Speaking directly to Feinstein, Cruz asked: "Would she deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing to the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment?"
Visibly angry, Feinstein shot back. "I'm not a sixth-grader," she said. "I'm not a lawyer, but after 20 years, I've been up close and personal with the Constitution. I have great respect for it."
"It's fine you want to lecture me on the Constitution. I appreciate it," she continued, staring at Cruz, who glared back at her. "Just know that I've been here a long time. I've passed a number of bills. I've studied the Constitution myself. I am reasonably well-educated, and I thank you for the lecture. Incidentally, this [bill] does not prohibit — you use the word prohibit — it exempts 2,271 weapons. Isn't that enough for the people of the United States? Do they need a bazooka?"