WASHINGTON (AP) -- A top Democrat says the toll that gun violence is taking on families makes it clear that Congress needs to pass more firearms restrictions.
At a hearing Tuesday of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin said it is time for lawmakers to act. He said he believed steps like requiring background checks for all gun purchases would be constitutional, and he said current laws have too many gaps in them.
Disagreeing was Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the panel's top Republican. He said the focus of law enforcement should be on criminals, and argued that curbing the rights of citizens to own gun would do nothing to stop violent crime.
Meanwhile, a woman whose Chicago police officer brother was fatally shot in 2010 says told the panel it's time for Congress to pass laws keeping guns from criminals. Another woman, though, said firearms restrictions prevented her from protecting her parents when they were killed in a 1991 mass shooting in a Texas restaurant.
The two were among several witnesses taking opposing sides at the hearing.
Suzanna Gratia Hupp described being in Luby's restaurant in Killeen, Texas, when a gunman crashed his truck through the front window and fatally shot 23 people, including her parents, and wounded many others. Hupp says she left her gun in her car because Texas law barred her from bringing it into the restaurant.
"I can't begin to get across to you how incredibly frustrating it is to sit there, like a fish in a barrel, and wait for it to be your turn, with no hope of defending yourself," said Hupp, now a Republican Texas state official and gun rights advocate.
She added, "The only thing the gun laws did that day was prevent good people from protecting themselves."
Taking a different view was Sandra J. Wortham, whose brother, Thomas E. Wortham IV, was shot dead outside their parents' home by robbers, though he and his father, a retired police sergeant, fired back.
"The fact that my brother and father were armed that night did not prevent my brother from being killed," Wortham said. "We need to do more to keep guns out of the wrong hands in the first place. I don't think that makes us anti-gun. I think it makes us pro-decent, law-abiding people."
(Please check back for updates to this story.)