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A 'hero’ in Giffords’ shooting testifies for tougher gun laws
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A 'hero’ in Giffords’ shooting testifies for tougher gun laws

Survivors go to Washington to support Fix Gun Checks Act

  • Patricia Maisch holds a picture of Christina Taylor-Green, 9, one of six people killed in a Jan. 8 shooting spree in Tucson. Maisch, a bystander who helped disarm the gunman, was in Washington to testify in support of a bill to strengthen background checks on gun buyers.
    Uriel J. Garcia/Conkrite News ServicePatricia Maisch holds a picture of Christina Taylor-Green, 9, one of six people killed in a Jan. 8 shooting spree in Tucson. Maisch, a bystander who helped disarm the gunman, was in Washington to testify in support of a bill to strengthen background checks on gun buyers.

WASHINGTON — A Tucson resident who was hailed as a hero in the Jan. 8 shooting that killed six people and seriously injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, called on Senate lawmakers Tuesday to pass stricter gun laws.

Patricia Maisch urged members of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee to pass the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011, to help prevent another attack like the one near Tucson in which six died and 13 were wounded.

“Imagine the headlines you’ve seen, but now with the name of a loved one instead,” Maisch told lawmakers.

Maisch was one of several bystanders credited with subduing Jared Lee Loughner, the man accused in the Tucson shooting spree. While others wrestled Loughner to the ground, Maisch grabbed an ammunition clip.

“Their courage and heroism gave me the opportunity to take an ammunition magazine from the shooter,” she testified Tuesday.

Several of the survivors came to Washington to support the Fix Gun Checks Act, which would toughen National Instant Criminal Background checks on people looking to buy guns. The database is supposed to flag drug users, the mentally ill and people with felony convictions.

But a report released Tuesday by Mayors Against Illegal Guns said most states are not registering drug users in the NICS database and many federal agencies are not complying either. The U.S. mayors’ group was formed in response to the Tucson shooting.

The report ranked Arizona 15th in the number of mental health records it provides federal officials, and said that all but three of the state’s counties regularly send in records.

The act would redefine a person who is considered a drug user to include anyone who admits “to using or possessing a controlled substance unlawfully within the past 5 years.”

According to news reports, Loughner had admitted to military recruiters in 2008 that he had used drugs, but was still able to buy a gun legally.

But Sen. Chuck Grassley, R–Iowa, did not appear to be moved by Tuesday’s testimony. Grassley, who said he was sitting in on the committee for Sen. Jon Kyl, R–Ariz., said the bill would infringe on the Second Amendment rights of veterans, among others.

Grassley argued that a veteran diagnosed with post–traumatic stress disorder – a condition often suffered by soldiers who have been in combat – could be barred from buying a gun under the bill, which he said would be “ironic.”

“We just honored and celebrated Veterans Day,” Grassley said. “Yet, we are here debating new legislation to restrict the Second Amendment right of citizens.”

But Maisch and others said the current system needs to be fixed.

“The shooting in Tucson brought Americans together,” she said. “Please honor that unity by putting politics aside and working together to fix our broken background–check system.”

Also at the hearing was Bill Badger, another person cited as a hero for helping subdue Loughner.

Badger was shot in the head but survived the injury. He believes that if the bill can become law it would save lives in the future.

“It’s not a political issue,” Badger said. “It’s about saving lives.”

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