WASHINGTON (January 30, 2013)—Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords said Wednesday Congress should be bold in writing new laws to address gun violence in America.
Giffords was severely wounded in a shooting spree in 2011 at a political event in Tucson.
Six people were killed.
She told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Americans are counting on lawmakers to address the problem.
Speaking haltingly, she said: "It will be hard, but the time is now. Too many children are dying."
The former Arizona congresswoman was the first witness at Congress's initial hearing on gun violence since the Newton, Conn., elementary school massacre in December.
The Senate committee is taking the lead in writing legislation to address gun violence.
Many want to re-impose an assault weapons ban and prohibition on large-capacity ammunition magazines.
The National Rifle Association opposes these proposals.
Giffords’ husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday that he and his wife are gun owners who support the right to own guns, but he said Congress must strengthen laws to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from getting guns.
Kelly said he and his wife are "two reasonable Americans" who believe it is time for Congress to act.
Kelly sat at the opposite end of the witness table from Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association.
LaPierre also testified.
He rejected bans on some assault weapons and high-capacity magazines advocated by President Barack Obama.
Under questioning, LaPierre also conceded that his organization no longer supports universal background checks for gun purchasers.
Criminals wouldn't subject themselves to a background check, and that potential violators aren't aggressively prosecuted, he said.
Republicans pledged to listen carefully to the testimony, but didn't go beyond that.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa said the shootings in Arizona and Connecticut were terrible tragedies, but that they "should not be used to put forward every gun control measure that has been floating around for years."
He said any serious discussion of the issue has to also focus on mental health.