A contingent of Tucson survivors of gun violence, including some from the Jan. 8, 2011, mass shooting, traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to seek congressional support for closing a loophole in national gun laws.

The 14-member group from Tucson met with Sen. Jeff Flake and an aide for Sen. John McCain, and presented the senators with hundreds of letters from constituents asking them to vote for a bill that would close "the private seller loophole," said Pam Simon, a Jan. 8 survivor.

"We want all guns purchased to go through a background check. Right now 40 percent of guns purchased legally do not go through a background check because either they were purchased online or from a private seller, at a gun show, for example," Simon said.

Private sellers are not required to run background checks.

"Those loopholes were put in before the Internet and before the huge gun shows so a private seller could sell his gun collection to his neighbor and not put him through a background check," she said.

Simon has traveled to Washington several times since recovering from her wounds and is hopeful change is forthcoming.

"This time had a markedly different feel," she said of her trip. "For one thing, the public is speaking out, and they're hearing from people. My sense is, there is the political will to do that."

While in Washington, the group also met with the first lady, Michelle Obama. They were among 120 survivors of gun violence from throughout the country who were invited to Washington to attend the Senate Judiciary hearing on firearms legislation. The event was sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national, bipartisan coalition of mayors co-founded in 2006 by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

Contact reporter Kimberly Matas at kmatas@azstarnet.com or at 573-4191.