Tucson Shooting Survivors Urge Congress to Act on Gun Laws

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Survivors of the Tucson, Ariz., shooting rampage that left six dead and 13 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords,  raised their voices to Congress today calling for stricter gun laws, while also offering words of encouragement to the recovering congresswoman.

Patricia Maisch, who wrestled the gun clip from Jared Lougher and prevented him from reloading his gun, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the Fix Gun Checks Act, which would require background checks on anyone who tries to buy a gun, while also tightening rules mandating federal agencies and states to report criminal background activity.

“I am definitely here to remember the names of those we lost, as well as to honor each survivor,” Maisch said. “But my primary mission today is to remind all of you that Tucson is yet another extremely tragic example of what is at stake each and every time a gun falls — or is placed — in the wrong hands.”

Maisch was joined by several others who played a critical role in the moments after Lougher opened fire in Tucson on Jan. 8, including Faith and Roger Salzberger and Col. Bill Badger. Roger chased after Loughner along with Colonel Bill Badger, whose head was grazed by one of Loughner’s bullets, and took the shooter down.  Also present was Nurse Nancy Bowman, who provided critical medical care to the wounded that day.

In addition to the Tucson survivors, more than 50 victims of gun violence from around the country were also present in the Senate Judiciary hearing today, after a day of lobbying their Congressional representatives.

The Tucson survivors had words of encouragement for their recovering congresswoman. Maisch had a message for Giffords, who gave her first interview Monday with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer.

“I know it’s hard. Keep working,” Maisch said following her testimony. “You’re in my prayers.”

Maisch went on to say that whenever she is near the site of the shooting now, she bows her head and remembers the victims of that day.

Nurse Nancy Bowman said she wants Giffords to know that she has been an inspiration to her.

“If weren’t for this incident, I wouldn’t be politically involved,” Bowman said outside the hall of the hearing on the guns bill.

Roger Salzberger, who said he went through many tissues watching Giffords’ interview with Sawyer, said that while he wants Giffords to do what’s best for her, he hopes to see her serving Tucson as their representative in Congress again soon.

“Congress needs Gabby, and 434 members like her,” Salzberger said.

While the guns bill had a tremendous showing of support in the audience, there is opposition to the legislation.

Research director of the Independence Institute David Kopel, who testified before the committee, had sharp criticisms for the proposed law, saying that it would ban gun ownership for anyone who’s ever been ordered to receive treatment for any mental problem.

“[The bill] bans gun possession by anyone who has ever been ordered to receive counseling for any mental problem, this would include a college student who is ordered to get counseling because the school administration was retaliating against him for criticizing the administration,” Kopel said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the author of the legislation, denied Kopel’s assertion that the bill would apply broadly to anyone who’s received counseling, saying that the legislation would only deny gun ownership to individuals who were determined to be mentally ill through adjudication.