Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly opposing assault weapons ban
A Donnelly spokesman told The Associated Press Wednesday that the Indiana lawmaker will vote against the ban but has not decided whether he would support universal background checks.
Donnelly represents a key bloc of moderate to conservative Democrats the president must win over. The announcement also marks a key early stance from Donnelly just a few months after winning a state that went heavily for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in last year's election.
Donnelly called himself "a strong supporter of the Second Amendment" in a statement issued shortly before the Senate Judiciary Committee opened a hearing featuring testimony from National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Meantime, former Congresswoman Giffords said Congress should be bold in writing new laws to address gun violence in America.
Giffords was severely wounded in a 2011 shooting spree that killed six people during a forum in Tucson. She told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Americans are counting on lawmakers to address the problem. Speaking haltingly, she said: "It will be hard, but the time is now. Too many children are dying."
The former Arizona congresswoman was the first witness at Congress's initial hearing on gun violence since the Newton, Conn., elementary school massacre in December.
Giffords' husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, said that while curbing gun violence is a complex problem, it is no excuse for inaction by lawmakers.
Kelly told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that he and his wife are gun owners who support the right to own guns. But he says Congress must strengthen laws to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from getting guns.
Kelly said he and his wife are "two reasonable Americans" who believe it is time for Congress to act.
Kelly sat at the opposite end of the witness table from Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association. LaPierre also was testifying.
The Senate committee is taking the lead in writing legislation to address gun violence. Many want to re-impose an assault weapons ban and prohibition on large-capacity ammunition magazines. The National Rifle Association opposes these proposals.
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