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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Gabby Giffords Makes Case For Washington Gun Checks

File photo of former Rep. Gabby Giffords at a Senate Judicary Committee hearing on gun violence in 2013

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was the star witness at a hearing on gun control and gun rights in Olympia.

Giffords made a short, but impassioned plea to lawmakers Tuesday to support expanded background checks for gun sales.

The hearing room fell silent as Giffords was helped to her seat by her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly. In 2011, Giffords was shot in the head in a mass shooting in Tucson.

Now, Giffords and Kelly are leading a national campaign for expanded background checks.

“Be bold, be courageous, the nation is counting on you,” she told Washington lawmakers.

Giffords was also joined by Cheryl Stumbo who survived Seattle’s 2006 Jewish Federation shooting. But, Brian Judy with the NRA said he doesn’t believe background checks are the answer.

“You see in both Tucson and Seattle the shooter purchased his firearm from a licensed dealer after undergoing a background check,” he said.

Washington lawmakers are considering two competing gun related initiatives. One would require background checks for person-to-person gun sales and transfers. The other would prohibit Washington from adopting a background check law that goes beyond what the federal government requires.

If the legislature doesn’t act, both measures will end up on the fall ballot