Former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically injured in a shooting incident in Arizona two years ago, called for enforcing tighter gun controls during a Congressional hearing held on Wednesday.
Addressing the Senate Judiciary Committee, the former Arizona Congresswoman noted that gun violence is turning out to be a "big problem" in the United States as "too many children are dying" in shooting incidents across the country.
"Speaking is difficult. But I need to say something important. Too many children are dying. Too many children. 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," an emotional Giffords told the Senate Committee.
In January 2011, Giffords was critically injured in the head in a shooting outside a Tucson supermarket in which six people, including U.S. District Judge John Roll and a nine-year-old girl, were killed. The shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, was sentenced in November to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
After several months of treatment and therapy for the injuries sustained in the shooting incident, Giffords was discharged in June 2011. She then moved to the Houston residence of her retired husband, where she has been provided with round-the-clock nursing assistance. She resigned from the Congress in January 2012 to concentrate on her ongoing recovery.
Giffords and her astronaut husband Mark Kelly recently launched a political action committee named 'Americans for Responsible Solutions' for curbing gun-violence in the United States and raising money to support greater gun control efforts. With the campaign the couple also aims to counter the influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun lobbying groups.
Incidentally, they launched the campaign on the second anniversary of the shooting attack. It also followed last month's school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 elementary school children and six educators dead.
Addressing the same Senate panel on Wednesday, Kelly said: "When dangerous people get guns, we are all vulnerable, at the movies, at church, conducting our everyday business, meeting with a government official."
Besides Giffords and her husband, NRA Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre also testified at the hearing. LaPierre noted that gun control measures enforced between 1994 and 2004 had failed make any impact on violent crimes in the United States.
"Law-abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent or deranged criminals. Nor do we believe that government should dictate what we can lawfully own and use to protect our families," LaPierre said at the hearing, adding that his organization was opposed to universal background checks for gun owners.
Regarding the administration's plans to plug loopholes in the background-check law for gun buyers, he said: "Let's be honest, background checks will never be universal because criminals will never submit to them."
Incidentally, it was LaPierre's first public appearance since a much-criticized press announcement in the wake of a shooting in Newtown. At that event, LaPierre called for placing armed guards in all of the nation's schools and blamed efforts at gun control - especially gun-free school zones - for contributing to the tragedy.
The Senate hearings are part of the Congressional response to President Barack Obama's call for greater efforts to regulate the sale of firearms and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines in response to the Newtown shooting.
Incidentally, the Newtown shooting was the second deadliest shooting incident at a U.S. school after a mentally-challenged South Korean student gunned down 32 people before killing himself at the Virginia Tech university in April 2007.
Although his administration has enacted several measures through executive action since the Newtown shooting, Obama insists that the most meaningful reforms will require Congressional action.
The President wants the Congress to enact laws that would make a background-check mandatory for anyone seeking to purchase a gun, and to re-instate the ban on the sale of "military-style assault weapons" and high-capacity ammunition magazines. That ban expired in 2004.
by RTT Staff Writer
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