Gabrielle Giffords Urges Senate: ‘Be Courageous’ on Gun Control

Posted on: January 30th, 2013 by ABC News No Comments

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, whose congressional career was ended by a bullet wound to her head, opened a Senate hearing on gun violence Wednesday by telling the panel, “Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important.”

She told the Senate to be “courageous” because “Americans are counting on you.”

Giffords sat alongside her astronaut husband Mark Kelly as she delivered her emotional statement just over a minute long imploring Congress to act on gun policy.

“This is an important conversation for our children, for our communities, for Democrats, and Republicans,” the former Arizona congresswoman said. “Speaking is difficult but I need to say something important: Violence is a big problem 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. Thank you,” Giffords said before being helped out of the hearing room.

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Giffords was shot by a gunman in her Arizona district two years ago, and was a last-minute addition to the hearing about the nation’s gun laws as lawmakers grapple with how to curb gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school tragedy that left 20 children and six adults dead late last year.

Wednesday’s hearing is a showdown on guns, featuring two powerful but conflicting forces in the gun control movement. Giffords’ husband will also testify, as will Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president and CEO of the National Rifle Association.

They will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the first congressional hearing on gun violence since the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month.

Giffords has recently launched Americans for Responsible Solutions, an organization promoting the implementation of universal background checks and limits on high capacity magazines.

LaPierre, who states the NRA’s opposition to universal background checks and urges legislators not to “blame” legal gun owners by enacting new gun control laws.

In the wake of the Newtown shooting, the NRA advocated placing armed security guards in every school in America, an initiative LaPierre will promote in Wednesday’s hearing, arguing that “it’s time to throw an immediate blanket of security around our children.”

In an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer earlier this month, Kelly and Giffords said they hope the Sandy Hook shooting, in which 20 children and seven adults died, will spur legislative action on gun policy.

Wednesday’s hearing is titled “What Should America Do About Gun Violence?” Others testifying include Professor Nicholas Johnson of Fordham University School of Law, Baltimore Chief of Police James Johnson, and Gayle Trotter, an attorney and senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who last week introduced a bill which would outlaw 157 semiautomatic weapons, told Politico she was not content with the witnesses called to testify and will hold a hearing of her own.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released earlier this month found that 65 percent of those polled supported banning high capacity ammunition magazines while 58 percent favored banning the sale of so-called assault weapons.

Earlier this month President Obama introduced his gun policy agenda, which called for the banning of some assault-style weapons and high capacity magazines holding over ten rounds. The president’s plan included 23 executive actions on gun violence that would not require congressional approval, which included a directive for national agencies to strengthen the criminal background check system.

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll out last week showed 53 percent favored the president’s gun control plan while 41 percent viewed it unfavorably.

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