Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., gave a brief, emotional plea at a Senate gun control hearing, urging Congress to quickly tackle the problem of gun violence. In her opening remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Giffords acknowledged that "an important conversation for our children, for our communities, Democrats and Republicans" must be had.
"Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children," she said.
Giffords ended her statement with emphasis on the timing for Congress to take action, saying, "We must do something. It will be hard but the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you."
Giffords, an Arizona Democrat who was shot at a point blank range during a constituent event in her district of Tucson, survived and is still recovering a head wound. Giffords was not scheduled to speak at the hearing although Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, was already scheduled to testify.
Shortly after the congresswoman's testimony, her husband described his wife's condition. "As you know, our family has been immeasurably affected by gun violence. Gabby’s gift for speech is a distant memory. She struggles to walk and she is partially blind."
Kelly told the committee that three things must be accomplished in order to take responsibility for gun rights. The first goal would be to fix background checks for gun owners, close private sales loopholes, and tighten a federal gun trafficking statute.
The second would be to improve the collection of data in conducting research on gun violence, and the final goal should broaden a civil conversation about the firearms that are legally purchased and sold in the country.
Kelly described himself and his wife as "pro-gun ownership" but also "anti-gun violence." Kelly told lawmakers to look away from special interests and ideologies and work towards compromising on the thin line between upholding "the right to own a firearm for protection, collection and recreation" and protecting "our families and our communities."
Wednesday's hearing marks the first round of congressional hearings focused on gun violence since the December shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. where 20 children and six educators lost their lives to a gunman. In an effort to reform gun laws, Giffords and Kelly announced in December the formation of their advocacy group, "Americans for Responsible Solutions," that would propose solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership. After the Newtown shootings, the couple also visited with the families of the school shooting victims.
Giffords and Kelly were scheduled to testify ahead of the National Rifle Association's executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, in addition to three other witnesses.