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Tucson shooting survivors give Holder petitions calling for gun control

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WASHINGTON – A dozen survivors and family members from last year’s Tucson shooting that killed six people and injured 13 met this week with Attorney General Eric Holder to urge stricter federal regulations on gun sales.

The group was in Washington to present Holder with petitions with more than 500,000 signatures calling for legislation requiring that people go through a background check before purchasing a gun.

The petition drive was organized by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, headed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which also urges Congress to act quickly to end gun violence.

The survivors’ group presented the petitions to a “very sympathetic” Holder in a meeting Wednesday at the Department of Justice. The meeting was scheduled for an hour, but ended after an hour and 20 minutes when Holder’s secretary finally pulled him out, said Ken Dorushka, one of the survivors from the shooting.

“I have to say he showed some of the most concern, compassion” of the many officials the survivors have spoken with since the shooting, Dorushka said.

A spokeswoman for Holder’s office would only say that the meeting “was a positive and constructive one.”

The 12 people in the meeting were all survivors, or family members of victims, of the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting at a congressional event outside a Tucson Safeway.

Then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Tucson, who was holding the “Congress on Your Corner” event, was the apparent target of the attack by Jared Lee Loughner who opened fire on the crowd.

Six people were killed, including U.S. District Judge John Roll. Giffords was seriously injured when she was shot in the head, and was forced to resign her seat earlier this year to focus on her recovery.

Twelve others were wounded, including Ron Barber, an aide who has since been elected to fill Giffords’ seat in Congress, and Dorushka, who was shot in the arm when he tried to shield his wife.

Loughner pleaded guilty earlier this month to 19 counts including murder, attempted murder, attempted assassination of a member of Congress and other crimes in the incident. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Dorushka said Thursday he believes that stricter regulations on gun sales could play a key role in lowering the number of shooting deaths in America. He cited a statistic from the mayors’ coalition that said guns kill 34 people every day in the United States.

But Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, said tougher gun restrictions are not the way to lower the murder rate.

“It is an unnecessary regulation for citizens,” Pratt said.

The gun-rights activist pointed out that if someone has planned a mass murder, that person will typically not let more regulations stop them. He said the shooter who opened fire this summer at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 people and injuring 58, had previously passed a background check.

“To try to make ourselves safer by making ourselves defenseless just doesn’t work. In fact, it’s quite the opposite,” Pratt said.

Bills are currently under consideration in the House and Senate that would require a background check before every gun sale in America. The Senate bill has had a hearing, while the House bill has yet to be heard.