And the politicized drama continues. Remember Rahm’s words, “Never let a tragedy go to waste”.

Giffords tells panel: ‘You must act’

By Mike Lillis – 01/30/13 10:25 AM ETEx-
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) shook up the gun-control debate Wednesday with a surprise appearance at a Senate hearing on gun violence just more than two years after she was gravely wounded in a shooting rampage that led to her early retirement.

Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee — Congress’s first hearing on gun violence since her shooting — Giffords implored Congress to act immediately to take on the problem head on.

 

“Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important,” Giffords said in halting language as the packed hearing room hung on every word. “Too many children are dying. We must do something. 

“This will be hard, but the time is now. You must act,” she added. The country, she said, “is counting on you.”

Giffords left the hearing immediately after her testimony, and was helped out of the room by her husband, Mark Kelly.

Giffords’s testimony sets up a showdown between gun-control advocates like herself and opponents like the National Rifle Association (NRA), which, along with Kelly, is also testifying Wednesday.

 

The hearing is a direct response to last month’s shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn., where 20 young children and six adults were killed by a lone gunman bearing a military-style rifle and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

 

Leading the proceeding was Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Judiciary panel and a gun owner who represents a rural state not exactly clamoring for new restrictions. But the seven-term senator also has a long track record of supporting tougher gun laws, including the assault-weapons ban in 1994 and proposals to install universal background checks in 1999 and 2001.

Since the Newtown massacre, Leahy has reiterated his support for the assault-weapons ban and strongly suggested there should be limits on the size of ammunition magazines.

On Wednesday, Leahy also voiced a renewed support for universal background checks.

“I know gun-store owners in Vermont. They follow the law and conduct background checks to block the conveyance of guns to those who should not have them,” Leahy said. “They wonder why others who sell guns do not have to follow these same protective rules.”

Pushing back was Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, who challenged the effectiveness of new gun controls to fight crime. The 1994 assault-weapons ban, for instance, did not prevent the mass shooting in Columbine in 1999, Grassley noted.

Echoing calls from the NRA, the Iowa Republican suggested Congress should focus its violence-prevention efforts on cultural factors like violent video games. He rued a “lack of civility in American society” he says has grown “in recent decades.”

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre is also scheduled to testify Wednesday. In his prepared remarks, LaPierre rejects new gun controls and calls instead for a program putting armed guards in all the nation’s schools.

“Law-abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent or deranged criminals,” LaPierre will say. “Nor do we believe the government should dictate what we can lawfully own and use to protect our families.”

Giffords was hosting a constituent outreach event outside a grocery store near Tucson in January 2011 when a lone gunman went on a shooting rampage. Six people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, were killed and 13 others injured, including Giffords, who resigned from Congress one year ago to focus on her rehabilitation.

Jared Lee Loughner, who last summer pleaded guilty to the shootings, had been expelled from community college for disturbing behavior and denied entrance into the military for a history of drug abuse. Yet he was able to buy a firearm and high-capacity ammunition magazines from local, licensed gun dealers.

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