Sybrina Fulton, mother of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin, told a panel of senators Tuesday that state "stand your ground" self-defense laws do not work and must be amended, reviving the politically charged gun control issue a year ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.
But little besides politics emerged from the session, held in the Senate's made-for-television hearing room. Democrats, who hold the majority in the Senate, are trying to keep up pressure on the patchwork versions of stand your ground laws currently in effect in more than half of the 50 states.
"This law is an invitation for confrontation," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who chaired the session.
But Republicans passionately defended the law, saying it was a way for citizens to stay safe without police present.
"This is not about politicking," said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. "This is not about inflaming racial tensions. This is about the right of everyone to protect themselves and protect their families."
But race and politics were unmistakably woven into the discussion.
Members of Congress are busily engaged in their re-election efforts for next year's midterms, with 35 seats at stake in the Senate and all 435 seats in the GOP-controlled House up for grabs.
The 2012 shooting death of Martin, who was 17 and unarmed, and the July acquittal of his shooter, George Zimmerman, stirred racial tensions and sparked debate over stand your ground laws in Florida and at least 21 other states.
Martin's mother told the panel that she attended the hearing so senators could "at least put a face with what has happened with this tragedy."
"I just wanted to come here to ... let you know how important it is that we amend this stand your ground, because it certainly did not work in my case," Fulton said, speaking without consulting prepared remarks. "The person that shot and killed my son is walking the streets today. This law does not work."
Lucia Holman McBath, the mother of Jordan Russell Davis, implored the Senate to resolve the nation's debate. Her 17-year-old son was shot and killed nearly a year ago when Michael David Dunn, 46, allegedly opened fire on a Dodge Durango with four teenagers inside after complaining of their loud music and saying he saw a gun and thus a threat. Jordan had been inside.
Authorities never found a gun in the vehicle, the Florida Times-Union reported. Dunn's trial is set for next year.
"You can lift this nation from its internal battle in which guns rule over right," McBath told the Senate.
Al Jazeera and wire services