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Giffords appeals for gun control

By Alan Fram

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 11:28 a.m. HST, Jan 30, 2013

WASHINGTON » In a dramatic appeal, wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords urged Congress today to enact tougher curbs on guns, saying, "too many children are dying" without them.

"The time is now. You must act. Be bold, be courageous, Americans are counting on you," she told the Senate Judiciary Committee at Congress' first gun control hearing since 20 elementary school children were shot to death in Newtown, Conn., late last year.

Giffords spoke haltingly, a result of the wounds suffered when she was shot in the head in an attempted assassination two years ago that left six others dead.

But in conflicting testimony a little more than an hour later, a top official of the National Rifle Association rejected bans on certain assault weapons and high capacity magazines advocated by President Barack Obama and gun control advocates in Congress.

Under persistent questioning from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the panel's chairman, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre also conceded that in a reversal, his organization no longer supports universal background checks for gun purchasers. He said criminals wouldn't subject themselves to a background check and the current system is a failure because the administration doesn't prosecute potential violators aggressively.

"Back in '99 you said, 'no loopholes, nowhere,' " said Leahy, referring to testimony delivered more than a decade ago. "Now you do not support background checks for all."

Other Democrats on the panel disagreed with LaPierre.

"That's the point. The criminals will not go to purchase the guns because there'll be a background check. It will stop them from original purchase. You missed that point completely. It is basic," said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, Giffords husband as well as a former astronaut and also a witness, said a limit on the size of ammunition magazines could have made a dramatic difference when a man opened fire in Arizona two years ago.

He "showed up with two 33-round magazines, one of which was in his 9 millimeter. He unloaded the contents of that magazine in 15 seconds. Very quickly. It all happened very, very fast. The first bullet went into Gabby's head. Bullet number 13 went into a nine-year old girl named Christina Taylor Green....

"If he had a 10-round magazine -- well, let me back up. When he tried to reload one 33-round magazine with another 33-round magazine, he dropped it. And a woman named Patricia Maisch grabbed it, and it gave bystanders a time to tackle him.

"I contend if that same thing happened when he was trying to reload one 10-round magazine with another 10-round magazine, meaning he did not have access to a high-capacity magazine, and the same thing happened, Christina Taylor Green would be alive today."

Giffords was not on the list of witnesses released in advance of the hearings, and in an unusual show of respect, members of the committee greeted her warmly outside the hearing room as she and her husband made their way inside. The former Democratic congresswoman was grievously wounded in an assassination attempt in Tucson, Ariz., a little more than two years ago, and has become a public advocate for gun control.

Kelly described the effect on his wife of the events of two years ago.

"Gabby's gift for speech is a distant memory. She struggles to walk, and she is partially blind. Her right arm is completely paralyzed," he told a rapt committee room.

In the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., massacre, Obama has issued a call for gun control legislation.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat and member of the committee, has introduced a bill to ban numerous assault-style weapons as well as high-capacity ammunition magazines.

The prospects for Senate passage are not strong, in part because of opposition from the NRA and in part from a reluctance among rural-state Democrats — Leahy among them — to support limitations sought by some advocates of restrictions on firearms.

Republicans pledged to listen carefully, and no more.

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the panel's senior Republican, said that while the shootings in Arizona and Connecticut were terrible tragedies, they "should not be used to put forward every gun control measure that has been floating around for years." He also said any serious discussion of the issue 'must include a complete re-examination of mental health as it related to mass shootings."

In an opening statement of his own, Leahy said it is "a simple matter of common sense" that there should be a strengthening of background checks and that doing so would not threaten gun owners' rights. The checks are currently required for gun purchases from licensed dealers but not at gun shows or other private transaction.

At the same time, he said the Constitution's second amendment "is secure and will remain secure and protection....No one can or will take those rights or our guns away," he said.

He added, "let us forego sloganeering, demagoguery and partisan recriminations. This is too important for that."

Giffords' appearance — not only her words, but her obvious difficulty in speaking — served to underscore the emotion surrounding the issue of gun curbs.

The gunman in Tucson, Jared Loughner, used a 9 mm Glock pistol with an extended ammunition magazine in the attack that wounded the former congresswoman and killed six. The handgun would not have been illegal under a federal assault weapons ban that lapsed more than seven years ago, but the magazine that held more than 30 bullets would have been prohibited.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., indicated that whatever the committee produced wouldn't necessarily be the final product, saying the package would be debated by the full Senate and senators would be allowed to propose "whatever amendments they want that deal with this issue."

Despite the horrific Newtown slayings, it remains unclear whether those advocating limits on gun availability will be able to overcome resistance by the NRA and lawmakers from states where gun ownership abounds. Question marks include not just many Republicans but also Democratic senators facing re-election in red-leaning states in 2014. They include Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

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serious wrote:
Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the nation and look at the article in this issue. Also, just saw on TV that the NRA membership has increased by 1/2 million since the Conn disaster.---Does that say something?
on January 30,2013 | 05:01AM
UhhDuhh wrote:
Chicago has a ban on assault rifles and there have not been mass killings in that city like Newtown, Virginia Tech, Columbine, etc. As for the 1/2 million new members, another stat you should consider is it was originally 51% of the American public in favor of gun control laws after LaPierre spoke right after the 20 kids were killed and now it is 71%. Does that say something?
on January 30,2013 | 09:11AM
hawaiikone wrote:
Breaking down these polls, which vary dramatically depending on the slant, reveals over a third of those supporting a ban on assault rifles define them as any fully automatic weapon. Your 71% refers to those favoring some additional rules, background checks, improved gun show restrictions, etc. Only a percentage target assault weapons specifically. Finding ways to keep guns out of unqualified hands is supported by the overwhelming majority, but banning semi automatic rifles is another subject entirely.
on January 30,2013 | 09:49AM
serious wrote:
In a sense, this all sounds like the "not in my backyard" routine--I have guns but I don't want anyone else to have them. My guns are shotguns and anyone who know guns, if they break into my home and look through that barrel, change of underwear!!!
on January 30,2013 | 10:10AM
UhhDuhh wrote:
Banning automatic rifles is actually on the table along with banning high capacity magazines. It is a totally different subject from mentral health but it is on the table. As for guns, I think everybody has right to own them for self defense or sport but at this point in time, its harder to tell who is crazy than it is to control how many bullets a gun can fire.
on January 31,2013 | 10:13AM
Anonymous wrote:
would the president be safer if his protection had no guns? Why disarm the legal citizens? the illegal will always have a weapon of some sort - the law abiding should have protection.
on January 30,2013 | 11:35AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
At the end of the day, the things these politicians are discussing won't make a hoot of difference about gun violence in America. Not with 270,000,000 guns already floating around out there. There is nothing to suggest that the proposed changes to gun laws would have stopped the crazy man Loughner from shooting at Giffords and the others. The problem is he was...crazy. Frankly, I'd be more impressed if all these guys would work to provide all Americans with even 20% of the level of health care that was afforded to Giffords.
on January 30,2013 | 08:09AM
egghead wrote:
I simply don't see how having more guns equates to less violence. The example given by the NRA was how best to stop a bad guy with a gun? Their answer was with a trained good guy with a gun. OK, at that point in time, yes. How about we try and make it so a bad guy cannot find a gun?
on January 30,2013 | 08:26AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
The bad guys do not obtain their guns after filling out government forms, waiting for check periods and then submitting data about themselves. That is part of being a good guy and we don't worry about good guys with guns because we have proof every day that tens of millions of good guys are....good guys.

The bad guys don't follow the rules. Making more rules doesn't stop bad guys.

on January 30,2013 | 08:51AM
Kaluu wrote:
Sometimes, it does seem that way.
on January 30,2013 | 09:26AM
egghead wrote:
isn't it true that "bad guys" actually do get their firearms legally?? the "bad guys" that pose as "good guys" then sell their firearms to other "bad guys" who couldn't pass a background check? or the "bad guys' that are really "good guys" but don't store their firearms properly so they get stolen and into the hands of the "bad guys"? or whatever "bad guys" might be able to obtain at gun shows....legally. Is there really no room (need) for improving the situation? Everything is fine from your perspective? Oh..maybe gov't issued guns to every citizen...is that the community we want to live in?
on January 30,2013 | 09:53AM
Bumby wrote:
This background check is a farce. You're maybe good now but messed up later. You could qualify for purchase of a firearm only to have it stolen or lost and somehow getting into the hands that would not pass a background check. Etc Etc Etc. Think about this people, the majority of the population let's say about 98% are law abiding and responsible citizens are required at the age of 25 to have or purchase a firearm. 98% of the population would pass the test. Do you think there will be more gun violence if every person above the age of 25 were allowed to have a firearm? Vice versa would their be less gun vilolence if no citizens were allowed to own a firearm? A person a firearm = possible use. A person - no firearm = no possible use. se.
on January 30,2013 | 08:29AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I another story in today's paper is this statement:

...Chicago, a city with no civilian gun ranges and bans on both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines...[had]... than 500 homicides last year and at least 40 killings already in 2013, including a fatal shooting of a 15-year-old girl on Tuesday.

Clearly the ban is not the answer. For complicated issues there are no simple answers so this political rhetoric by a couple forming a PAC based on marketing her misfortune is not a likely to be effective except for perhaps raising money for favorite politicians. We need a nuanced discussion and comprehensive solutions not politicians looking for sound bites and photo ops.

on January 30,2013 | 08:48AM
Kaluu wrote:
For more input, you might want to read author Stephen King's discussion-prompter, ebook shortie, "Guns." He's a gun owner who pulled a money-making book because shooter crazies referred to it. He's got reason to have thought about the issue carefully. Also, check Net for info on Japan's gun laws and some serious consequences for lawbreakers. I'm all for better monitoring and/or care of people with violent histories and rational...not knee-jerk...gun laws.
on January 30,2013 | 09:18AM
Kaluu wrote:
Sometimes, I wonder what triggers a 'Tiser comment check. I can't imagine wazzup with one I tried to post. Mainly commented that I appreciated author Stephen King's short ebook conversation starter, "Guns."
on January 30,2013 | 09:30AM
808comp wrote:
This country is going nuts. Just today there was another shooting in Arizona,and yesterday some guy shot and killed a bus driver,and took a six yr old hostage.Belive he still have the six yr old.Don't think you can blame all these shootings on mental illness either.You might say this is just another day in America.
on January 30,2013 | 10:44AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
You can't blame it on the gun either. The bad person deserves the blame and that's where the discussion about reducing violence needs to focus.
on January 30,2013 | 03:30PM
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