'Too many children are dying' – Gabrielle Giffords joins the gun debate

Former congresswoman who was paralysed in mass shooting makes surprise appearance at Senate hearing

Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who suffered a grievous brain injury in a mass shooting in her Tucson constituency two years ago, made a surprise appearance at the first hearing on gun violence on Capitol Hill since last month's Newtown shooting.

Accompanied by Mark Kelly, her husband and a Nasa astronaut, Ms Giffords held a packed Senate Judiciary Committee room in her thrall as she struggled to get her words out. "Speaking is difficult. But I need to say something important," she told the senators. "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."

The high drama introduced by Ms Giffords hardly dissipated as witnesses and senators from both sides of the gun control issue tried to score points. As the prejudices spilled out it became harder to imagine that the gulf between them – gun control advocates on one side and defenders of the second amendment right to own guns on the other – will ever be bridged.

Much of the tangling in the proceedings involved Wayne LaPierre, the head of the powerful National Rifle Association, who set out his opposition to changes in the law including to proposals outlined earlier this month by President Barack Obama as a response to the Newtown massacre which left 20 children dead.

"Law-abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of deranged criminals," said Mr LaPierre, pictured right, who argues the best response to Newtown would be to put armed security guards in all schools. "Nor do we believe the government should dictate what we can lawfully own and use to protect our families."

Mr Obama has asked Congress to ban the sale of most assault weapons, including the AR-15 rife used in Newtown, as well as of high capacity bullet clips. He is also asking lawmakers to close gaping loopholes in the background checks that are meant to occur before a gun sale. Guns bought from private citizens, for instance at gun shows, account for about 40 per cent of all sales in America. Such purchases are not subject to background checks.

Questions from Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham of North Carolina, meanwhile served as a reminder that the Obama proposals will face strong headwinds not just in the Democrat-controlled Senate but also in the House of Representatives where the Republicans are in the majority. By most reckonings, only the plans for a closing of the background check loopholes stand any real chance of becoming law.

Senator Graham signalled, for example, his opposition to an end to the sale of high-capacity magazines because it might impede the ability of citizens to defend themselves. In the kind of statement that would leave most gun-control activists gaping he asserted: "There can be a situation where a mother runs out of bullets because of what we do here". In the same intervention, he suggested: "In some circumstances the AR-15 makes perfect sense." Charles Schumer, the Democrat Senator from New York and a powerful voice for tougher controls, portrayed some of his despair at the approach taken by the other side, notably when espousing the notion that guns are not to blame in mass shootings, the owners of the guns are. "Not including guns when discussing mass killings is like not discussing cigarettes when discussing lung cancer," he said.

Mr Kelly, who with his wife recently founded a new group dedicated to curbing gun violence called Americans for Responsible Solutions, sought to offer a moderate voice in an otherwise often immoderate debate. "Gabby and I are pro-gun ownership," he said. "We are also anti-gun violence. And we believe that in this debate, Congress should look not towards special interests and ideology – which push us apart – but towards compromise, which brings us together."

Echoing the dignity of his wife's brief appearance, he shook hands with Mr LaPierre as he walked out. Later, in his home state, three people would be injured in a shooting in Phoenix.

Wayne Lapierre: In his own words

"Law-abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent or deranged criminals. Nor do we believe the government should dictate what we can lawfully own and use to protect our families.

Proposals that would only serve to burden the law-abiding have failed in the past and they'll fail again. What people... fear today is that they are going to be abandoned by their country. If a tornado hits, if a hurricane hits, if a riot occurs, that they are going to be out there alone and the only way they are going protect themselves in the cold, in the dark, is with a firearm. I think that indicates how... essential the Second Amendment is to fundamental human survival."

Suggested Topics
News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Media baron Rupert Murdoch owns News Corps and 20th Century Fox
theatrePlaywright David Williamson is struggling to find a big name to star as the media mogul
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Functional/Full Life Cycle

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Func...

SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

£350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

Business Intelligence Consultant - Central London - £80,000

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Intelligence Consultant - C...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?