The Massachusetts Senate approved a sweeping overhaul of the state's gun laws Thursday, but not before stripping out a key element of a similar bill approved by the House.

The Senate bill had included the measure, which would have given police chiefs more discretion over issuing firearms identification cards needed to purchase rifles or shotguns.

During Thursday's debate, that element of the bill was eliminated. The bill would maintain current law which limits chiefs to conducting background checks.

Gun rights activists hailed the change. Critics say the switch waters down the bill, which was approved on a voice vote.

Both bills would create a web-based portal to allow real-time background checks in private gun sales and mandate the state join the National Instant Background Check System.

House and Senate lawmakers must hammer out a compromise bill.