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Survivors of the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and victims’ loved ones gathered at the site of the attack Wednesday to call for tougher gun control laws.

Giffords, her husband, Mark Kelly, and others took turns at the podium to call for universal background checks.

“It’s very hard for me to be here today, here where my son was gunned down,” said Emily Nottingham, whose son, Gabe Zimmerman, was killed along with five others during a meet-and-greet constituent event for Giffords.

Jared Lee Loughner, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, was sentenced in November to life in prison without parole in the rampage. He fired nearly three dozen shots from a Glock semiautomatic pistol with a high-capacity ammunition magazine into the crowd.

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“I call on U.S. Sens. (Jeff) Flake and (John) McCain to not think about political posturing and political positioning,” Nottingham said of the Republican lawmakers. “ … Together, we can ensure that there are many fewer deaths of our daughters and our sons. Let’s just do it.”

“We’re here to draw attention to this problem,” said Kelly, a retired astronaut who has taken a national role in the gun control debate after his wife was shot in the head. “We’re here to let Sens. McCain and Flake know — to let them know we stand with the 80 percent that are in favor of universal background checks.”

A poll released by Quinnipiac University on Wednesday put the support for universal background checks for gun buyers at 93 percent, with the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled to debate tougher gun control legislation Thursday.

A series of high-profile shootings in recent years, culminating with the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., has appeared to push public support more in favor of tougher gun regulations, and shooting survivors’ and victims’ family members have given extra resonance to the debate.

Among that group, Kelly and Giffords have emerged as top voices in the call for stricter regulation, forming a political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions, to give their efforts more sway in Washington.

“Gabby inspires me each and every day,” Kelly said. “Often, as she heads off to therapy, the last thing she’ll say to me is — ”

“Fight, fight, fight!” Giffords cut in. She spoke briefly at the end of the news conference: “Be bold. Be courageous. Please support background checks. Thank you very much!”

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