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Gun Hearing Airs Issues, Disagreements On Solutions


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

This is the time when we begin to find if the emotional power of the Newtown school shooting will translate into political change. People affected by mass shootings are now talking with state and federal lawmakers.

Susan Aaron's daughter escaped the shooting in Newtown after seeing her teacher and friends killed.


INSKEEP: Aaron's told her story to Connecticut lawmakers, and so did Newtown resident Bill Stevens, who opposes tighter gun laws.


MONTAGNE: That was some of the testimony in Connecticut on the same day as a hearing in Washington, D.C. Lawmakers have spoken of changes, ranging from a ban on assault weapons, to better background checks.

NPR's Carrie Johnson reports emotions ran high, starting with the opening witness.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: For former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, every step is a struggle. Giffords' right arm is paralyzed. She's also partially blind, the result of a point blank shooting two years ago at a Tucson shopping plaza where she met with constituents.


JOHNSON: Giffords read her statement from a piece of lined notebook paper, the kind that's so familiar in schools all over the country.


JOHNSON: The next four hours demonstrated exactly how hard it may be for the divided Senate to move ahead on new gun regulations.

Republicans raised doubts about a ban on assault weapons, an idea even many Democrats say won't fly in Congress. Several GOP senators also said they'd have a hard time supporting limits on high capacity magazines that carry dozens of rounds of ammunition.

Senator John Cornyn from Texas.


JOHNSON: Then there's the background check system. Under current law, only gun sales through federally licensed dealers get background checks, even though many sales now take place at gun shows, on the Internet, or through friends and family.

James Johnson - the police chief in Baltimore County, Maryland - told senators as many as four in 10 people never go through that system.


JOHNSON: Speaking for a law enforcement coalition, Johnson asked senators to impose universal background checks that would cover private sales.



JOHNSON: Wayne LaPierre is the chief executive of the National Rifle Association.


JOHNSON: Days after the Newtown school shooting, LaPierre famously said the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he repeated his call for armed guards in schools.

Lindsey Graham's a Republican from South Carolina.


JOHNSON: Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut who's married to Gabrielle Giffords, told lawmakers that could be dangerous. In Tucson two years ago, Kelly says, a Good Samaritan with a gun came within a split second of shooting someone other than the killer. Kelly says the issue's complex. But...


JOHNSON: Kelly shook hands with NRA executives as the hearing finally came to a close.

When it comes to action in the Senate, it's still not clear who has the upper hand.

Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.
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