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.