Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was seriously injured in the mass shooting that killed six people in Tucson, Ariz., two years ago, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, for a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence.
(CBS NEWS) -- 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."
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
"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
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.
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.
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
"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.
Johnson also said he's seen an "explosion of fire power since the
assault weapons ban expired," and argued that "the ban on assault
weapons, and high-capacity ammunition must be reinstated."
"Victims are being riddled with multiple gunshots," he said.
"The common-sense measures we call for will not infringe on the Second
Amendment rights, but will keep guns out of the dangerous hands of -- of
people who are out there to commit danger in our society, and excessive
firepower out of our communities."
control advocates and many Democrats have applauded the White House for
recent action on this issue, it's unclear which of these proposals -- if
any -- can make it through the Republican-controlled House of
Representatives. And the pro-gun lobby has already begun using its
considerable resources to target the president's proposals.
Wayne LaPierre, the CEO and Executive Vice President of the NRA, made
the case this morning that efforts to curb gun violence should be
focused strengthening school security and mental health resources. He
also stated his opposition to closing gun show loopholes, arguing that
criminals won't submit to background checks anyway.
problem with gun laws is, criminals don't cooperate with them. The
mentally ill don't cooperate with them," he said. "Law-abiding gun
owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent or deranged
criminals, nor do we believe the government should dictate what we can
lawfully own and use to protect our families... We need to be honest
about what works and what does not work. Proposals that would only serve
to burden the law-abiding have failed in the past and will fail in the
Gayle Trotter, an attorney and senior fellow at the
Independent Women's Forum, also argued that assault weapons provide a
woman with "peace of mind" -- because "knowing she has a scary looking
gun gives her more courage."
"An assault weapon in the hands of a young woman defending her babies at her home becomes a defense weapon," she said.
the lengthy hearing, advocates from both sides remained adamant in
defense of their views, and Democrats objected strongly to assessments
by LaPierre and Trotter that background checks and stricter regulations
of gun sales would do nothing to curb gun violence.
Durbin, D-Ill., told LaPierre that his testimony missed the point
"completely" on how a universal background check would deter criminals
from purchasing firearms; Kelly, meanwhile, argued that stronger
background checks could have prevented his wife's shooter from acquiring
Later today, Giffords and Kelly will meet with Mr.
Obama in a meeting closed to the press, according to White House
spokesman Jay Carney.