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As the Senate Judiciary Committee gets ready to take the first votes on gun violence legislation on Thursday afternoon, former Arizona Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly held a press conference Wednesday morning in front of the Safeway grocery store in Tucson where she was wounded by a gunman on January 8, 2011.

“Be bold. Be courageous. Please support background checks,” said Giffords, who was joined by victims’ family members and other survivors of the mass shooting.

Giffords and Kelly’s gun safety group Americans for Responsible Solutions also emailed a message headlined “Senate votes on guns tomorrow” on Wednesday to supporters, asking for small contributions to keep pressure on the Senate Judiciary Committee and what they hope will be a vote before the full Senate when the members return after recess in April.

A majority 92 percent of Americans, including 93 percent of gun owners, 89 percent of Republicans, and 85 percent of NRA members support universal background checks.

Despite this overwhelming support, the NRA opposes expanding background checks. However, an article published in The Washington Post on Tuesday shows that gunmakers, Second Amendment advocates, and dealers are splitting with the NRA on universal background checks, further isolating the gun lobby group and potentially creating a window of opportunity for lawmakers to support legislation the NRA opposes. One of the groups breaking with the NRA and supporting universal background checks is the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the nation’s largest gun manufacturing trade assocation, which is based in Newtown, CT.

Also, according to a story in The New York Times, President Obama is reaching out to moderate Republican senators and other lawmakers “with a history of willingness to cut bipartisan deals” to push for action on gun control and other agenda items the president has laid out for his second term.

The background check bill has hit a roadblock in recent days, as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has expressed reservations over keeping records of private gun sales. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) have been working on the language of the bill for weeks. Democrats argue that private gun sale records are a crucial component of the legislation because otherwise an expansion of background checks would be unenforceable. If Coburn backs out, Schumer and Manchin could reach out to Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), who along with another moderate Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), announced on Monday that they had reached a deal with Democrats on federal gun trafficking legislation.

“Gabby is back,” said Kelly at the news conference. “She is back and she is committed to doing whatever it takes to make sure that this Congress and this president pass and sign meaningful gun violence legislation, and specifically a background check bill.”

Photo: United States Government Work via Flickr

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