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Giffords to Congress: 'The time is now; you must act'

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) made a surprise appearance this morning at a Senate hearing on gun violence, and read a brief, emotional statement to the committee and the public.

"Thank for inviting me here today," she said. "This an important conversation for our children, for our community, for Democrats and Republicans. Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard. But the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you."

The same committee scheduled testimony from her husband, Mark Kelly, and the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre, among others.

Away from the hearing room, it's also worth noting there's been a fair amount of action behind the scenes. USA Todayreported that another bipartisan group of senators, including Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), are in talks about crafting a universal-background-check proposal, designed to generate broad appeal.

On a related note, even House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is open to new legislation on background checks, telling the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's editorial board yesterday that closing existing loopholes is "reasonable" and "obvious."

What's more, as Greg Sargent noted, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) noted yesterday that she co-sponsored "a conceal carry bill in Nebraska that had a significant background check component," and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) conceded, "We all recognize the need for more effective background checks."

"All," in this case doesn't include the NRA or its most inflexible allies, but it points to a growing public consensus on an idea that enjoys overwhelming support from the American mainstream.