The former Democratic Arizona congresswoman, who struggles to walk and is partially blind, stoutly read a brief statement in a high-pitched, almost childlike voice as her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, sat at her side in a packed and dramatically hushed hearing room.
“Speaking is difficult, but I must say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children,” Giffords said.
While Giffords opened the hearing the central figure of the four hour plus session was NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre who backpedaled from earlier statements that hinted at support for expanded background checks – an issue that splits NRA members in polls.
LaPierre said he now he believes that background checks won’t deter criminals and that government simply should better enforce existing gun laws… the NRA official even harkened to American revolutionaries’ resistance to King George III of England and said guns are similarly needed today to combat citizens’ “fear of being abandoned by their government. They are fundamental to human survival.”
Theatrically the day was won by those supporting more gun regulation with compelling testimony by Giffords and a seemingly out of touch LaPierre further damaging the NRA’s brand. But the realities of Congress have not changed. The House is a dead zone for new gun laws – unless they are for further deregulation. LaPierre’s strategy of playing to the activist base of the NRA to make sure the House stays that way seems to be working.