By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, signaled on Tuesday that despite earlier indications to the contrary, he may allow a vote on a possible ban on assault weapons.
Reid, a longtime gun-rights advocate from Nevada, recently had indicated he would not permit a vote because the Republican-led House of Representatives likely won't go along with such a prohibition.
Powerful gun-rights groups oppose a ban on assault weapons and could seek to unseat any lawmaker who backs it, as they have tried to do in the past.
But after a weekly meeting on Tuesday with fellow Senate Democrats, Reid told reporters that he expects "to have a free amendment process" on gun legislation.
That process could result in other Democrats proposing a possible resurrection of a 10-year ban on semi-automatic assault weapons that expired in 2004.
President Barack Obama proposed a package of measures last week to combat gun violence that includes a ban on assault weapons, limits on high-capacity ammunition clips, expanded mental health treatments and improved school security.
Reid said he expects the Senate Judiciary Committee, which opens hearings next week on proposals by Obama and others, to produce a bill. It is unclear if the measure will include a ban on assault weapons.
"It may not be everything everyone wants. But I hope it has stuff that is really important," Reid told reporters.
A series of shootings in the last two months, including one at an elementary school in Newton, Connecticut, in which 20 children and six educators were slain, has triggered a renewed national debate on gun control. (Reporting By Thomas Ferraro; editing by Fred Barbash and Philip Barbara)