Former U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords told a Senate judiciary committee hearing Wednesday it must be bold in drafting laws to curb gun violence.

The committee hearing is in response to the Dec. 14 shooting rampage that killed 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and made gun control a top-tier issue in the U.S. capital.

Giffords herself was severely wounded in a 2011 shooting that killed six people. She told the committee on Wednesday that Americans are counting on lawmakers to address the problem.

"We must do something," said Giffords. "It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act. Be bold, be courageous; Americans are counting on you."

Giffords said the conversation is important for children and for communities.

"For Democrats and Republicans, speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important. Violence a big problem. Too many children are dying, too many children."

The former Arizona congresswoman was the first witness at the committee's initial hearing, which is taking the lead in writing legislation to address gun violence.

Many people want to reimpose an assault weapons ban and prohibition on large-capacity ammunition magazines. The National Rifle Association opposes these proposals.

With files from The Associated Press