Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) plans to begin Thursday night the formal process of beginning the first congressional debate in more than a decade on limiting gun violence, setting up what is expected to be a heated debate for several weeks in April.

Reid announced that he will move a package of gun-related bills onto the legislative calendar and set it up as the first  order of business when the Senate returns from its two-week break over the Easter and Passover holidays. While the package will not include a ban on assault weapons -- Reid said Tuesday that proposal has less than 40 votes of support -- it will include provisions to impose a universal background check system; stricter federal criminal laws for gun trafficking; and provisions to improve school safety.