A senate committee is investigating what America should do about gun violence after a spate of mass shootings last year.
Correspondent: Brendan Trembath
Speakers: Gabby Giffords, former congresswoman; Mark Kelly, retired astronaut; Gayle Trotter, lawyer for Independent Women's Forum; Wayne Lapierre, NRA CEO; Dick Durbin, US senator; James Johnson, Baltimore Chief of Police
BRENDAN TREMBATH: The tone of the Senate hearing was set when the former congresswoman Gabby Giffords appeared as the first witness. She suffered a severe head wound in a 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona, and it's been a long road to recovery.
GABBY GIFFORDS: Speaking is difficult but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying, too many children. We must do something.
BRENDAN TREMBATH: Her husband, a retired astronaut Mark Kelly, was there for moral support and also testified to the committee.
MARK KELLY: Gabby is a gun owner and I'm a gun owner. We have our firearms for the same reasons that millions of Americans just like us have guns - to defend ourselves, to defend our families, for hunting and for target shooting.
BRENDAN TREMBATH: There are already 310 million firearms in the United States according to a government estimate.
Gayle Trotter, a lawyer from the conservative group Independent Women's Forum said guns make women safer.
GAYLE TROTTER: The vast majority of violent criminals use their size and their physical strength to prey on women who are at a severe disadvantage. In a violent confrontation, guns reverse the balance of power.
BRENDAN TREMBATH: The strongest pro-gun voice heard during the hearing was that of Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive officer of the 4.5 million member National Rifle Association.
WAYNE LAPIERRE: And when it comes to background checks, let's be honest, background checks will never be universal because criminals will never submit to them.
BRENDAN TREMBATH: He clashed with Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois.
DICK DURBIN: Mr LaPierre that's the point. The criminals won't go to purchase the guns because there'll be a background check, will stop them from the original purchase. You missed that point completely and I think it's basic.
WAYNE LAPIERRE: Senator, I think you missed
(Sound of gavel banging)
CHAIRMAN: Let there be order.
BRENDAN TREMBATH: The chief of police in the nearby city of Baltimore also supports background checks.
James Johnson's gold badge glinted under the bright lights as he testified.
JAMES JOHNSON: The best way to stop a bad guy from getting a gun in the first place is a good background check.
BRENDAN TREMBATH: The charged debate in this committee room on Capitol Hill represented a wider argument about gun control across America.