At Sen. Dick Durbin's request, people with family members or friends who were victims of gun violence stood during a packed Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.
Several Chicagoans were among them.
There was Annette Holt, whose son, Blair, was shot and killed on a packed Chicago Transit Authority bus in May 2007. Pam Bosley was there too. Her son, Terrell, was shot to death in April 2006 in a church parking lot before the start of chorus practice.
For Nate and Cleo Pendleton, who lost their daughter to gun violence just two weeks ago, adjusting to life has been difficult.
Likewise, the family of Thomas Wortham is forever changed. The Chicago police officer was gunned down in May 2010 as two men tried to steal his motorcycle.
His sister was among those who testified, recalling her brother's own words as he fought against violence.
"When people think of the south side of Chicago, they think violence," Sandra Wortham told those gathered. "And he went on to say, 'We're going to fix it so it doesn't happen again.'"
Durbin is among those who say restrictions such as requiring background checks for all gun purchases could be written that would still protect the Constitution’s Second Amendment right to bear arms. Currently, such checks are required only for sales by licensed federal dealers.
"Americans all across the country are now saying: Enough. We’ve reached a tipping point,” Durbin said. "We need to act. We need to better protect our kids and our loved ones from the epidemic of gun violence."
But not all of those on hand agreed.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the top Republican on the panel, expressed sympathy for those directly affected by gun violence. But he added that constitutional rights must be protected "not just when they’re popular, but especially when passions are seeking to restrict and limit those rights."
Cruz said he believed that "stripping the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens does nothing to stop criminals" from committing violent acts.
The hearing came just hours before President Barack Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address, in which he repeated his call for gun curbs.
At a separate gathering, more than 100 families from across the country impacted by gun violence came together to call for action. They say they want more than words but realize there is opposition.
"We're here today because gun violence affected my life and it's affected the rest of my life. No one should feel the way we do," said Cleo Cowley-Pendleton.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.