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Washington • Sen. Mike Lee argued Thursday that banning high-capacity magazines poses a threat to Americans' ability to defend themselves as the Senate Judiciary Committee took up a proposed assault-weapons ban.

The Utah Republican pressed U.S. Attorney for Colorado John Walsh on the effect that banning high-capacity magazines would have on self-defense; the senator claimed such a ban could endanger victims who are being attacked from longer distances or by multiple assailants.

"Can we ignore the impact that any laws we adopt might have on persons who need more than 10 rounds to legitimately and lawfully defend themselves and their families?" Lee asked.

Walsh responded that there are many ways to avoid such situations — such as fleeing the scene or calling police — and noted that hypothetical situations are difficult to respond to.

Lee cited a 1995 study published by the Northwestern University School of Law, which found that more than half of assaults were committed by more than one attacker. In fact, Lee added, about a quarter of attacks were committed by two assailants and nearly 18 percent were committed by three to four attackers.

Lee was one of a handful of committee members who attended Wednesday's hearing, and even he left after the first panel of witnesses. Sen. Orrin Hatch didn't appear for the hearing.

Other witnesses included Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son, Jesse, was killed in the Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Conn., last year.

The assault-weapons bill, which is being sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would ban 157 types of military-style assault weapons — similar to one of the weapons used in the Newtown shooting — and high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The previous assault-weapons ban, which Feinstein also sponsored, expired in 2004.

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