In face of Las Vegas shooting, congressional inaction - Tucson News Now

Ex-congresswoman Giffords speaks out on Las Vegas shooting

WASHINGTON (Tucson News Now) -

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was injured during the Jan. 8th shooting in Tucson in 2011, spoke out Monday following the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Giffords, co-founder of the gun violence prevention organization Americans for Responsible Solutions, issued the following statement after more than 50 people were killed and more than 500 were injured in the incident.

“I know this feeling of heartbreak and horror too well. The massacre in Las Vegas is a grave tragedy for our nation. This must stop - we must stop this.

“I am praying for the victims of this shooting, their families and friends. And I am so grateful for the heroism and professionalism of the first responders who acted so courageously to bring this horror to an end. I send the injured all my strength: you have a long road ahead. Be strong. You can do it.  My heart is with the city of Las Vegas and all who were touched by this tragedy.

“But I am praying for my former colleagues, our elected leaders, too. I am praying they find the courage it will take to make progress on the challenging issue of gun violence. I know they got into politics for the same reason I did - to make a difference, to get things done. Now is the time to take positive action to keep America safer. Do not wait. The nation is counting on you.”

Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, hosted a news conference in front of the Capitol Monday afternoon.

At the end of the speech, Giffords turned to the building, raised her fist and said, "The nation is counting on you."

You can watch the entire news conference below.

Across the country, the deadly mass shooting renewed Democrats' calls for gun safety legislation. At the same time GOP legislation aimed at loosening gun rules stood in limbo, facing an uncertain future.

Before the shooting that killed at least 58 people - the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history - House GOP leaders had been moving forward with bills to ease regulations on gun silencers and allow people with concealed-carry permits to take their weapons to other states.

Republicans have been upbeat about prospects for legislation as they control both the House and Senate and have an ally in the White House in President Donald Trump. But no votes on either bill were scheduled as of Monday.

Democrats seized on the violence in Nevada to demand tougher gun restrictions.

"What Congress can do - what Congress must do - is pass laws that keep our citizens safe," Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said on the Senate floor. "And that starts with laws that help prevent guns, especially the most dangerous guns, from falling into the wrong hands."

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a gun control proponent, said it was "time for Congress to get off its ass and do something."

But no action was expected, as other mass shootings in Colorado, Connecticut, and Florida, and even attacks on lawmakers, failed to unite Congress on any legislative response. A bipartisan bill on background checks failed in the Senate four years ago, and since then Republicans have usually pointed to mental health legislation when questioned about the appropriate congressional response to gun violence.

Instead, Republicans have been pushing a pair of NRA-backed bills to loosen firearms restrictions. A Republican-led House committee last month backed the silencer bill by Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, who said it would help hunters protect their hearing.

Democrats scoffed, noting that the bill also would allow more armor-piercing ammunition. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi invoked the June shooting of Majority Whip Steve Scalise to oppose the bill last week, saying, "If you can hear (a gunshot) you can run" away.

Hillary Clinton tweeted Monday that the crowd in Las Vegas "fled at the sound of gunshots. Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get."

Pelosi on Monday asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to create a select committee on gun violence to recommend legislation. A group of Democratic lawmakers asked Ryan to remove the bill from the House calendar indefinitely.

Ryan ordered the flags of the Capitol to fly at half-staff, and issued a statement saying, "the whole country stands united in our shock, in our condolences and in our prayers." But the speaker has shown no interest in legislation to tighten up gun laws.

In an interview with The Associated Press last month, he said Congress needs to fund mental health reforms. "But if you're saying that this Republican Congress is going to infringe upon Second Amendment rights, we're not going to do that," he said.

Duncan, who grew up hunting with his father, included the silencer measure in a larger bill to expand hunting and fishing on federal lands. He suffers from hearing loss in one ear as a result of firing guns without earmuffs or suppressors, the term advocates prefer to "silencers." The devices muffle the noise of gunshots rather than mute it.

Donald Trump Jr., an avid hunter, supports the bill and says it's about safety. "It's a health issue, frankly," Trump said in an interview last year with SilencerCo, a Utah silencer manufacturer.

A separate bill sponsored by Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., would allow any gun owner with a state-issued concealed carry permit to conceal a handgun in any state that allows concealed carry. Hudson said the bill would allow gun owners to "travel freely between states without worrying about conflicting state codes or onerous civil suits."

Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, returned to the Capitol last week after he was shot and critically wounded in June as he and fellow Republicans practiced for a congressional baseball game.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Copyright 2017 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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