D.C.

Gabrielle Giffords testimony video: Giffords gives emotional gun control testimony

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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.

Giffords gave her testimony with husband Mark Kelly at her side. Photo: Associated Press
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room, Wednesday. Photo: Rebecca Cooper/WJLA

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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