Published March 14, 2013
Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Dianne Feinstein tangled Thursday over the Second Amendment, with the pro-gun control Feinstein accusing the freshman Republican senator of trying to "lecture" her as the committee on which they sit advanced a renewed assault-weapons ban.
The bill, sponsored by Feinstein, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line 10-8 vote and heads next to the floor, where it faces an uphill road.
Cruz, R-Texas, among the Republicans who oppose the bill, got into the heated exchange with Feinstein, D-Calif., when he posed a hypothetical question on the bounds of the Constitution.
"The Second Amendment and the Bill of Rights provides that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," Cruz started out -- and then asked whether the First Amendment should "only apply" to certain books or the Fourth Amendment should only protect certain people from unreasonable searches.
Feinstein became visibly agitated by the questioning.
"Let me just make a couple of points in response -- one, I'm not a sixth grader," she said. "Senator, I've been on this committee for 20 years. I was a mayor for nine years. ... I saw people shot."
Feinstein was a San Francisco city official when supervisor Harvey Milk was fatally shot in 1978. She was also behind the previous assault-weapons ban, which expired nearly a decade ago.
In response to Cruz, Feinstein pointed out her experience in the Senate.
"I've studied the Constitution myself. I am reasonably well-educated, and I thank you for the lecture," she said, before stressing that her latest proposal "exempts 2,271 weapons."
"Isn't that enough?" she asked. "I come from a different place than you do. I respect your views. I ask you to respect my views."
Cruz, who has developed a reputation for feisty debate in committee hearings, responded that "nobody doubts (Feinstein's) sincerity or her passion."
However, he noted, she "chose not to answer the question that I asked."
Cruz again asked if the Constitution would allow certain books to be banned.
"The answer is obvious -- no," Feinstein said, though senators subsequently agreed that some pornographic content could be regulated.
Her assault-weapons ban, which also bans high-capacity magazines, now heads to the Senate floor -- where it faces stiff resistance from Republicans and some Democrats.
The vote comes after the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced bills earlier in the week to enact near-universal background checks and combat gun trafficking. The measure approved Thursday is the most controversial drafted since the deadly Newtown, Conn., school shooting.