The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation Thursday toughening laws against people who illegally buy guns for others as lawmakers cast the first votes in Congress to curb firearms since December's horrific shootings at a Connecticut elementary school.

The panel was also debating bills banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, requiring background checks for nearly all gun purchases, and providing more money for schools to buy video cameras and other safety equipment.

The committee voted 11-7 to approve the measure, which boosted penalties against straw purchases, when people legally buy firearms for criminals or others legally barred from owning one. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, was the only Republican to vote in favor of the measure, whose chief sponsor was the panel's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.