GABRIELLE Giffords, the former US congresswoman who survived an assassination attempt, dramatically entered the debate on gun control, declaring: "Too many children are dying."
"Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important," she spoke haltingly. "Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something."
Ms Giffords urged Congress to back US President Barack Obama's plans to overhaul gun laws following the massacre of 26 people, including 20 young children, at the Sandy Hook primary school in Connecticut 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.
"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 Mr Obama's call for an end to the "gun-show loophole" which allows Americans buying guns from private dealers to escape background checks.
He stressed the couple remained "pro- gun ownership" but "anti-gun violence and the US must "draw the line" in a way that "protects our rights and communities alike".
The committee began considering the merits of new gun control laws after Mr Obama and vice president Joe Biden 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 those trying to buy guns.
Many voters 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. (© Daily Telegraph, London)