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Recent developments in the US debate over guns

Susan Ehrens reacts as she testifies during a hearing of a legislative task force on gun violence and children’s safety at Newtown High School in Newtown, Conn., Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. Ehrens daughter was a survivor in teacher Victoria Soto’s class in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Connecticut lawmakers are in Newtown for the hearing, where those invited to give testimony include first responders and families with children enrolled at Sandy Hook Elementary. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Susan Ehrens reacts as she testifies during a hearing of a legislative task force on gun violence and children’s safety at Newtown High School in Newtown, Conn., Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. Ehrens daughter was a survivor in teacher Victoria Soto’s class in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Connecticut lawmakers are in Newtown for the hearing, where those invited to give testimony include first responders and families with children enrolled at Sandy Hook Elementary. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, center, who was seriously injured in the mass shooting that killed six people in Tucson, Ariz. two years ago, arrives with her husband Mark Kelly, right, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, to give an opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence. Behind Giffords is Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Dale County Sheriff Wally Olsen briefs the media at the Dale County hostage scene in Midland City, Ala. on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. A gunman holed up in a bunker with a 6-year-old hostage kept law officers at bay Wednesday in an all-night, all-day standoff that began when he killed a school bus driver and dragged the boy away, authorities said. (AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey Welsh)

Members of the Phoenix Police Department SWAT team exit the garage at the home of a suspected gunman who opened fire at a Phoenix office building, wounding three people, one of them critically, and setting off a manhunt that led police to surround his house for several hours before they discovered he wasn’t there, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, in Phoenix. Authorities believe there was only one shooter, but have not identified him or a possible motive for the shooting. They don’t believe the midmorning shooting at the complex was a random act. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

This undated family photo provided by Damon Stewart shows 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton of Chicago. Pendleton was shot and killed Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, in a Chicago park as she talked with friends by a gunman who apparently was not even aiming at her. Pendleton, who had performed in President Barack Obama’s inauguration festivities, is the latest face on the ever-increasing homicide toll in the president’s hometown. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Damon Stewart)

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Developments Wednesday connected to the debate over gun violence and weapons control in the U.S.:

GIFFORDS BEFORE CONGRESS

Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, still recovering from a Tucson shooting spree that killed six people, implored federal lawmakers at an emotional hearing to act quickly to curb firearms. “Too many children are dying,” she said in a hushed and halting voice. “Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard, but the time is now.”

At the same hearing, a top official of the National Rifle Association rejected Democratic proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and said requiring background checks for all gun purchases would be ineffective because the Obama administration isn’t doing enough to enforce the law as it is.

HEARINGS IN NEWTOWN

Several hundred residents of the Connecticut town where a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators in December turned out at Newtown High School for a legislative public hearing on gun policy changes. Many in the audience wore stickers urging more gun control measures, including limits on high-capacity magazines and high-powered, military-style rifles.

“Turn this tragedy into a moment of transformation,” said Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son, Dylan, was killed in the massacre.

Casey Khan, one of the few to speak in favor of gun rights, warned that further restrictions would leave “good and lawful citizens at risk.” Khan received applause from some in the audience.

ALABAMA HOSTAGE STANDOFF

A gunman holed up in a bunker with a 5-year-old hostage kept law officers at bay in a standoff that began when he killed a school bus driver and dragged the boy away, according to authorities in Midland City, Ala. SWAT teams took up positions around the gunman’s rural property and police negotiators were trying to win the kindergartner’s release.

The gunman, identified by neighbors as 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes, had been scheduled to appear in court Wednesday morning to answer charges he shot at his neighbors in a dispute last month over a speed bump.

ARIZONA OFFICE GUNFIRE

A gunman eluded authorities after opening fire at a Phoenix office complex, killing one person and wounding two others. Court documents show the suspect had been scheduled to go to the building for a settlement conference in a contract dispute. A law firm says one of its lawyers was among the wounded and “was representing a client in a mediation” when he was shot.

Police warned the public that suspect Arthur D. Harmon is armed and dangerous.

INAUGURATION PERFORMER KILLED

The father of a 15-year-old presidential inauguration performer who was killed by gunfire in Chicago held a news conference in the park where she was shot, speaking as if to the gunman: “Look at yourself, just know that you took a bright person, an innocent person, a nonviolent person.”

Hadiya Pendleton, who had been a majorette with the King College Prep band, was talking with friends Tuesday when a man opened fire on the group, apparently not aiming at her. She was shot in the back as she tried to flee.

OBAMA’S PROPOSALS

President Barack Obama plans to make his first trip outside Washington to address gun proposals, traveling Monday to Minneapolis to meet with local leaders and law enforcement officials. The proposals include a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as universal background checks.

Associated Press

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