US lawmakers invite gun victims to Obama speech
Joining the White House in its demand for tougher gun laws, two dozen US lawmakers will host gun violence victims and relatives Tuesday at President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech.
First Lady Michelle Obama will help lead the way, with aides confirming that the parents of Chicago shooting victim Hadiya Pendleton will join her for the speech.
Pendleton was a teenage high school band majorette who performed at Obama's January inauguration just days before she was gunned down in Chicago.
Democratic congressman Ron Barber will host his predecessor in the House of Representatives, Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head at a mass shooting two years ago in her Arizona district.
Republican Senator John McCain will host Giffords' husband Mark Kelly.
In an emotional return to Congress, Giffords attended Obama's 2012 State of the Union speech one day before retiring from the House to focus on her recovery.
"Mark and I will be there again tomorrow night, because this is a critical moment in time for legislation to reduce gun violence in the United States," Giffords said in a statement Monday, when she appeared in a debut TV ad for her new group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, which seeks to prevent gun violence.
At least 23 members of the US House, including Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi, will also host gun violence victims or their relatives.
The guests will include Natalie Hammond, a teacher who was shot three times by a gunman who massacred 20 schoolchildren and six adults last December at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
She joins congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy's guest, Police Chief John Aresta of Malverne, New York, whose uncle was killed, along with McCarthy's husband, in a 1993 mass shooting on a Long Island train.
House Democrats including Mike Thompson, chairman of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, last week unveiled a package of possible gun control legislation which largely mirrored proposals put forward by Obama in the wake of Newtown.
One lawmaker took his message in a different direction.
Republican Steve Stockman said his guest at Obama's speech would be none other than Ted Nugent, the aging rocker and controversial gun advocate.
"I am excited to have a patriot like Ted Nugent joining me in the House Chamber to hear from President Obama," said Stockman on Monday.
Nugent drew the attention of the US Secret Service last April when he warned at a National Rifle Association meeting that he would end up "dead or in jail" if Obama was reelected.
Stockman last month threatened to initiate impeachment proceedings against Obama over the president's use of executive privilege to tighten gun laws, but ultimately backed off the threat.