Gabrielle Giffords, the former US congresswoman who survived an assassination attempt, dramatically entered the debate on gun control, declaring: “Too many children are dying.”

Gabrielle Giffords tells Congress to act now on gun violence

Gabrielle Giffords, the former US congresswoman who survived an assassination attempt, dramatically entered the debate on gun control, declaring: “Too many children are dying.”

By Jon Swaine, Raf Sanchez in Washington

7:08PM GMT 30 Jan 2013






Making a surprise appearance before a Senate committee, Ms Giffords astonished observers with her most extensive public remarks since being shot in the head two years ago in Tucson, Arizona.

Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important,” she said haltingly. “Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something.”

Ms Giffords urged Congress to back President Barack Obama’s plans to overhaul gun laws following the massacre of 26 people, including 20 young children, at a Connecticut primary school last month.

“It will be hard, but the time is now,” she said, as her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, helped her read from a prepared text. “You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.”

The 42-year-old Democrat was one of 13 people shot by a local dropout at a meet-the-voters event in a supermarket car park two years ago. Six were killed and several were seriously injured. She resigned from Congress last year to focus on her rehabilitation.

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In his own testimony, Mr Kelly cited the example of the Tucson massacre’s youngest victim to highlight the dangers of high-capacity ammunition clips, which Mr Obama wants to limit to 10 bullets.

“Christina-Taylor Green — nine years old, born on 9/11 2001 — was shot with the 13th bullet or after,” Mr Kelly told the Senate judiciary committee.

Mr Kelly backed the president’s call for an end to the so-called “gun-show loophole”, which allows Americans buying guns from private dealers to escape background checks.

Stressing that the couple remains “pro-gun ownership” but “anti-gun violence”, he said the US must “draw the line” on the lethality of legally-available guns in a way that “protects our rights and communities alike”.

Ms Giffords’ evidence came amid reports of another shooting her home state. At least three people were shot at an office complex in Phoenix. Their conditions were unknown.

Mr Kelly interrupted his own evidence to inform the committee of the latest shooting.

The committee began considering the merits of new gun control laws, after Mr Obama and Joe Biden, the vice-president, unveiled a plan for the most drastic overhaul in decades.

It proposes the reinstatement of a ban on military-style assault-weapons, which was allowed to expire in 2004, and a comprehensive background check system on Americans trying to buy guns.

Democratic allies have warned the president that they will struggle to pass the assault-weapons ban through the Senate, which his party controls, let alone the Republican-led House of Representatives.

Many voters in conservative and rural areas oppose new regulations. Some members of the Senate and the House facing re-election next year fear that supporting them could end their political careers.

Opposition to Mr Obama’s plan is spearheaded by the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful industry lobby group, which aggressively targets the re-election efforts of pro-regulation congressmen.

Wayne LaPierre, the group’s chief executive, said at the hearing that Americans had the “God-given right” to own guns and that “homicidal maniacs” would always find a way to evade regulations. He said it was a “national disgrace” that existing gun control laws were not better enforced.

Urging opposition to Mr Obama’s plans, Mr LaPierre added: “Background checks will never be universal, because criminals will never submit to them.”

Polls indicate that 85 per cent of the NRA’s rank-and-file membership actually support the introduction of tougher background checks.

David Kopel, a former Colorado prosecutor, claimed the British experience since the introduction of a gun ban after the 1996 Dunblane school massacre should deter the US from enacting tighter laws.

“Great Britain shows the perils of mass gun confiscation that some people have proposed,” Mr Kopel told the committee. “It has a higher violent crime rate than the US and an especially high rate of home invasion burglaries.”

A study by the British think tank Civitas, based on UN figures, found that rates of burglary and assault were significantly higher in Britain than in the US. The US murder rate however was more than four times that of Britain.

There were 14,612 murders in the US in 2011, of which 9,903 involved a gun.

In the same year, England and Wales saw 550 murders, including 39 involving a firearm.




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4 Responses to “Gabrielle Giffords, the former US congresswoman who survived an assassination attempt, dramatically entered the debate on gun control, declaring: “Too many children are dying.””

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