Gabby Giffords may struggle to speak, but on Wednesday, her message was crystal clear: The time for Congress to act on guns is now.
The former Arizona congresswoman, who was shot at point blank range, during a mass shooting two years ago, gave a short, moving testimony during a Congressional hearing on gun violence–the first one since last month’s deadly massacre in Newtown, Conn.
“Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important,” said Giffords, who was accompanied by her husband, Mark Kelly.
“Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard but the time is now. You must be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you,” she added.
The hearing is being held as Congress considers a number of reforms, including a White House-backed assault weapons ban, a limit on high capacity magazines and universal background checks for would-be gun owners.
Kelly, a retired astronaut, also testified after escorting his wife from the room. He opened with how his family has been immeasurably affected by gun violence.
“Gabby’s gift for speech is a distant memory, she struggles to walk and is partially blind,” said Kelly, adding in the last few years he’s seen his wife’s spirit, determination and intellect conquer her disabilities.
He noted that he and his wife were moderates and gun owners. But after Newtown, they decided “ this time must be different. Something needs to be done. We’re simply two reasonable Americans who have said ‘enough.’” Kelly said that while he believes in the Second Amendment, the right to own guns does not extend to terrorists, criminals and the mentally ill.
“Gabby and I are pro-gun ownership. We’re also anti-gun violence,” he said.”
Kelly called for a number of measures, including fixing gun background checks, removing the limitations on conducting scientific research about guns, and having a meaningful conversation about the lethality of the types of guns legislators allow Americans to buy and sell in the country.
The couple’s testimony stood in stark contrast from Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s CEO.
The head of the powerful gun lobby group said while his organization “joined the nation in sorrow over the tragedy that occurred in Newtown,” he argued the federal government should not fault responsible gun owners for the acts of criminals by passing new legislation.
“Law abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent of deranged criminals. Nor do we believe the government should dictate what we can lawfully own and use to protect our families,” LaPierre said.
He insisted more gun control laws were “not a solution” to reducing crime.
LaPierre made a similar argument shortly after last month’s deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn., saying gun owners were being “demonized” and that more guns—not less-were the solution.
He again called for armed security at schools, blame the country’s mental health system, and insist universal background checks will never work because “criminals will never submit to them.”
LaPierre added, “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 future.”