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Newtown residents back gun controls

Hundreds of people from the Connecticut town where 20 children and six staff were murdered in a school shooting rampage flocked to a public meeting, pressing their case for gun law changes.

Many in the audience at Newtown High School wore stickers urging more gun control measures.

Newtown first selectman Pat Llodra told the 52-member cross-party task force on gun violence prevention and children's safety that she supported limits on high-capacity magazines and high-powered, military-style rifles. Newtown police chief Michael Keohoe agreed, saying "this sacrifice is necessary and certainly warranted".

Newtown authorities, parents of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre on December 14 and residents were the focus of Wednesday night's hearing. Three task force sub-committees are reviewing possible law and policy changes affecting guns, school safety and mental health.

Meanwhile, former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in a gun rampage as she met constituents, begged politicians to act quickly to curb firearms, telling them: "Americans are counting on you." But not everyone at the emotional Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence agreed, underscoring the national political divide over arms control.

Ms Giffords' 80-word plea was the day's most riveting moment, delivered in a hushed, halting voice two years after the Arizona Democrat suffered horrific head wounds in the Tucson shooting that killed six people.

At the same hearing, a top officer from America's most powerful gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association, rejected Democratic proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and said requiring background checks for all gun purchases would be ineffective because the Obama government was not doing enough to enforce the present law. Even if stronger background checks did identify a criminal, "as long as you let him go, you're not keeping him from getting a gun and you're not preventing him from getting to the next crime scene", said Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president. He said poor enforcement was "a national disgrace".

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Separately, it was revealed that the chorus from Sandy Hook school will sing America The Beautiful before Sunday's Super Bowl clash between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens.

The chorus features 26 children from the primary school.

The performance at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, will be part of CBS's pre-game show and will be broadcast live. Alicia Keys will sing the national anthem.

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