NRA vs. Giffords' husband at Senate gun control hearing

At left, National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, and at right, Mark Kelly, husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
Getty Images/CBS News

Updated 9:15 a.m. ET

Today, the debate over gun control gets its first congressional hearing since President Obama proposed sweeping reforms to help tackle escalating gun violence in the United States.

National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre and Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who survived a shot to the head two years ago during an assassination attempt that left six people dead, are among those slated to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. One congressional source tells CBS News that Giffords herself is expected to attend the hearing; she is expected to accompany her husband and address the committee, although she's not expected to take questions.

Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., "wants to move legislation, and he wants to do it quickly," his spokeswoman Jessica Brady told Today's hearing will offer a platform for a "respectful and productive conversation" about "where there is potential for success in passing legislation this year."

Momentum for stricter gun laws has been building since a gunman last month used an AR-15 semi-automatic "assault" rifle and multiple high-ammunition caps to kill 20 children and six adults at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. But in prepared testimony released Tuesday by the NRA, LaPierre made the case that efforts should be focused strengthening school security and mental health resources, and predicted Mr. Obama's proposals to introduce a universal background check and reinstate the assault weapons ban "will fail."

"Law-abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent or deranged criminals, nor do we believe the government should dictate what we can lawfully own and use to protect our families," LaPierre will say. "We need to be honest about what works and what does not work. Proposals that would only serve to burden the law-abiding have failed in the past and will fail in the future."

The committee's top Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, too, will be looking at what witnesses "say about other issues besides guns," his spokeswoman Beth Levine told "Mental health issues, video games, those types of things - what they have to say about how they fit into the equation."

Meantime, Brady, Leahy's spokeswoman, said Leahy is "looking forward" to seeing what LaPierre's testimony yields.

"We're talking about the person who is the head of the most powerful gun lobby," Brady said. "They're going to have something to say about it, and they wield a lot of influence, as people have pointed out. To have him come and see what he says - we think that's valuable."

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