Giffords at Gun Violence Hearing: Too many children are dying
In remarks kicking off today's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., made a defiant call for Congress to "be bold" and "act" on gun violence.
"Too many children are dying," she said. "We must do something."
Giffords, who survived a gunshot to the head two years ago during an assassination attempt that left six people dead, read slowly but forcefully from prepared remarks, and acknowledged that "speaking is difficult."
"But I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem," she said. "It will be hard. But the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you."
The longstanding debate over the nation's gun laws has taken on renewed resonance in recent weeks, in the aftermath of a mass shooting last month that left 20 first-graders and six adult faculty members dead at a small-town elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Since then, Mr. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have vowed to enact meaningful change to reduce gun violence in America, and consulted stakeholders from all sides of the debate on how best to achieve that goal. In remarks unveiling his findings from that process earlier this month, Mr. Obama proposed a series of sweeping new laws, including the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, universal background checks on gun buyers, and a ban on high-capacity magazine ammunition.
Today's congressional hearing marks the first on gun control since President Obama's proposals, and the Senate Judiciary Committee's first legislative hearing in the new Congress.
Testifying before the committee this morning, former astronaut Mark Kelly, Giffords' husband, made an impassioned entreaty for bipartisan action to curb gun violence. Kelly, who with Giffords recently started a PAC with that same goal, said his first priority is fixing the nation's background check system.
"The holes and our laws make a mockery of the background check system. Congress should close the private sales loophole, and the dangers people entered into that system," he said.
Kelly also called for tougher gun trafficking laws, the removal of limitations on collecting data and scientific research on gun violence, and "a careful and civil conversation about the lethality of fire arms we permit to be legally bought and sold in this country."
He stressed that both he and Giffords are gun owners, and that they support the "right to own a firearm for protection, collection and recreation."
"Gabby and I are pro-gun ownership. But we are also anti-gun violence," he said. "When dangerous people get dangerous guns, we are all the more vulnerable."
The implementation of universal background checks is thought to be among the White House's top priorities with regard to its gun control proposals, and James Johnson, chief of police for Baltimore County, Md., and chairman of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, supported the notion of its efficacy.
"The best way to stop a bad guy from getting a gun in the first place is a good background check," Johnson said.