(WASHINGTON) — Mark Kelly, the astronaut husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president and CEO of the National Rifle Association, will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday in the first congressional hearing on gun violence since the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month.
Kelly, whose wife was seriously injured in the mass shooting that killed six people in Tucson, Ariz., two years ago, will appear on the panel, just weeks after launching Americans for Responsible Solutions, an organization promoting the implementation of universal background checks and limits on high capacity magazines.
“Overwhelmingly, you told us that universal background checks and limiting access to high capacity magazines were top priorities — and I’ll make sure to address each of those ideas in my opening remarks,” Kelly wrote in an email to supporters on Tuesday. Kelly asked the group’s allies to sign a petition calling on Congress to pass legislation on both issues.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is LaPierre, who states the NRA’s opposition to universal background checks and urges legislators not to “blame” legal gun owners by enacting new gun control laws.
“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,” LaPierre will say on Wednesday, according to prepared remarks released by the NRA.
“Proposing more gun control laws — while failing to enforce the thousands we already have — is not a serious solution to reducing crime,” says LaPierre in his prepared text.
In the wake of the shooting in Newtown, the NRA advocated placing armed security guards in every school in America, an initiative LaPierre will promote in Wednesday’s hearing, arguing that “it’s time to throw an immediate blanket of security around our children.”
In an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer earlier this month, Kelly and Giffords said they hope the Sandy Hook shooting, in which 20 children and six adults died, will spur legislative action on gun policy.
“Enough,” Giffords said.
“After the shooting in Tucson, there was talk about addressing some of these issues, [and] again after [the movie theater massacre in] Aurora, [Colo.],” Kelly said. “I’m hopeful that this time is different, and I think it is. Twenty first-graders being murdered in their classrooms is a very personal thing for everybody.”
Wednesday’s hearing is the first meeting ever for Kelly and LaPierre, according to an interview Kelly gave to CNN Tuesday. Kelly, who has shot at an NRA practice range with his wife, noted that he is a gun enthusiast but is not a member of the NRA.
“You would think with my background I would be a member of the NRA. I own a gun. I recently bought a hunting rifle a few months ago. I went through a background check. It took I think about 20 minutes. It’s a small price to pay to make us safer. We’re not going to stop every one of these mass shootings. We’re not going to stop every murder with a handgun in our cities, but I think we’d go a long way to reducing the violence and preventing some,” Kelly told CNN.
The hearing is titled “What Should America Do About Gun Violence?” Others testifying include Professor Nicholas Johnson of Fordham University School of Law, Baltimore Chief of Police James Johnson, and Gayle Trotter, an attorney and senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.
Giffords will also appear at the hearing alongside her husband, ABC News confirmed. She will give an opening statement.
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