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TODAY   |  April 11, 2013

Newtown families lobby for stricter gun laws

The family members of Sandy Hook victims are on Capitol Hill this week, calling on senators to advocate for more gun safety and mental health improvements, as lawmakers continue to debate. NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports.

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>> major story to watch today, the senate expected to hold its first crucial vote on gun control legislation. kelly o'donnell is nbc's capitol hill correspondent. kelly , good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, matt. we're outside the capitol this morning, just steps away from what's been a quiet vigil where families and survivors of gun violence have been reading the names of those lost to guns. thousands of names over many hours, and they will keep going in what's become around the clock countdown to today's first crucial vote.

>> even as washington slept.

>> eric thompson .

>> judith stabinow.

>> victims were remembered name by name against fierce resistance to new gun laws .

>> you can pass all the laws you want and the criminal element is going to sit back and smile.

>> reporter: pressures turned up on two gun-owning senators. breaking with the lobby to extend background checks to all gun shows and internet sales . joe manchin of west virginia .

>> i would ask my friends at the nra , take our bill, put it online, and let nra members like myself vote on it. let them vote.

>> reporter: surrounded by tearful newtown families, manchin could barely get out the words that he too is a father and grandfather.

>> i'm a parent.

>> reporter: those families will spend a third day calling on senators, finding their way as advocates for more gun safety and mental health improvements. bill shirlock's wife mary was a school psychologist .

>> she wanted to make sure things got done in the proper manner. for me to carry that on as best as i can, i feel i don't have a choice.

>> same for anna's mother.

>> i'm not a lobbyist. i woke up december 14th -- just a mom, and i'm still just a mom.

>> reporter: and senators toomey and manchin told me they have been consulting with the nra during their negotiations and had hoped the group would stay neutral on at least just their piece, the background checks , but that has not happened. the group is against it and has notified lawmakers it'll be evaluating and scoring votes during the gun process and that's how they can flex their influence over congress. matt?

>> kelly o'donnell, thanks. chuck todd