President Obama will meet with former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (R-Ariz.) and her husband, Mark Kelly, at the White House Wednesday, just hours after their testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of new gun controls.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president was "heartened to see Gabrielle Giffords testify today," and would meet privately with the pair in the afternoon.
"Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important," Giffords said. "Too many children are dying. We must do something."
The White House also extended condolences Wednesday to the family of Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago teenager who was killed earlier this week close to the Obama's family home. Pendleton had been in Washington earlier this month to perform in inaugural activities.
"It is a terrible tragedy any time a young person is struck down," Carney said, adding that the president and first lady's thoughts were with Pendleton's family. Carney also said Pendleton's death was further evidence of the need for gun control.
"This is just another example of the problem we need to deal with," said Carney.
Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary hearing was called in response to the mass shooting last month at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 schoolchildren and six employees dead. Since then, President Obama has called for a package of new gun-control measures that includes universal background checks, bans on so-called “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines and funding for additional research into gun violence.
But the president's proposal was greeted with skepticism at the hearing by Republican senators and National Rifle Association (NRA) executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, who argued tighter restrictions would likely do little to curb gun violence while infringing on Second Amendment rights of gun owners.
"Law-abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of deranged criminals," LaPierre said.
The White House also signaled that the president would hold public events in the future to promote his gun-control package, without providing specifics. Vice President Biden held a pair of events last week promoting the president's proposals, and there is speculation that Obama's planned trip to Minneapolis next week will also focus on the issue.