Giffords testifies on Wash. gun initiative

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a 2011 shooting, testified Tuesday before a Washington state House panel considering an initiative to expand firearm background checks in the state, telling lawmakers that "the nation is counting on you."

With her husband, retired NASA space shuttle commander Mark Kelly sitting next to her, Giffords spoke slowly and briefly to the panel that was taking public testimony on Initiative 594.

"Stopping gun violence takes courage, the courage to do what's right, the courage of new ideas," Giffords told the panel. "Be bold be courageous, the nation is counting on you."

Giffords is still recovering from a brain injury suffered when a mentally ill man shot her in the head as she met with constituents outside an Arizona shopping center in Tucson, Ariz. Six people were killed in the attack.

Washington state lawmakers had considered a measure similar to I-594 during last year's legislative session, but it didn't pass the House or the Senate.

I-594 does not include some of the exemptions that lawmakers had been considering. For example, law enforcement officers or people who have concealed pistol licenses still would have to go through background checks on private transactions under the initiative.

The House Judiciary committee also is considering Initiative 591, which would prevent Washington state from adopting background-check laws stricter than the national standard, which requires the checks for sales by licensed dealers but not for purchases from private sellers. It would also prohibit confiscation of firearms without due process.

Earlier in the day, Gov. Jay Inslee called Giffords "one of the most courageous people I've ever met."

"I'm glad she's here," he said. "She is going to talk about one small common sense thing we can do which is to close this gun show loophole."

If lawmakers take no action, both initiatives go to the November ballot for voters to decide.

Giffords also is appearing in a television ad airing before and after the president's State of the Union address. In the ad, Giffords faces the camera and says, "Congress is afraid of the gun lobby."

The ad is part of a national cable advertising campaign that is being paid for by Americans for Responsible Solutions, the group Giffords founded with her husband. It's set to run nationwide on CNN and MSNBC.

Kelly testified that both he and his wife own guns, and that they "believe wholly and completely in the Second Amendment."

"Rights demand responsibility," he said. "This right should not extend to criminals. it should not extend to the dangerously criminally ill. When dangerous people get guns, we are all vulnerable."

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