Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords testified before a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday that Congress should be bold in writing new laws to address gun violence in America.
Giffords resigned her seat in Congress a little more than one year after she was severely wounded in a Jan. 8, 2011 shooting spree that killed six people at a congressional constituent meeting in Tucson.
She told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Americans are counting on lawmakers to address the problem.
"Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important," Giffords said slowly. "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."
The former Arizona congresswoman was the first witness at Congress' initial hearing on gun violence since the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre in December. Twenty children and six adults were killed.
Giffords' husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, also testified before the panel, saying that he and Giffords are gun owners who support the right to own guns. But he said Congress must strengthen laws to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from getting guns.
Kelly called himself and Giffords "two reasonable Americans" who believe it is time for Congress to act.
The two have formed a political action group called Americans for Responsible Solutions, aimed at promoting gun restrictions.
The Senate committee is taking the lead in writing legislation to address gun violence. Many want to re-impose an assault weapons ban and prohibition on large-capacity ammunition magazines. The National Rifle Association opposes these proposals.
Also testifying was Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association. He rejected any ban on guns and high-capacity magazines, saying they are needed for self-protection.
"It's time to throw an immediate blanket of security around our children" by stationing more armed officers in and near schools, National Public Radio quoted LaPierre as saying.