Billboards Music Awards host Kelly Clarkson started today's ceremony on a solemn note, fighting back tears as she demanded a "moment of action" on US gun violence.

The singer and former American Idol winner struggled to contain her emotions as she addressed the camera at the top of the show, speaking out about last week's school shooting in which an armed student killed two teachers and eight classmates at Santa Fe High School in Texas.

"I'm a Texas girl and my home state has had so much heartbreak over this past year, and once again we're grieving for more kids that have died for absolutely no reason at all," Clarkson said, her voice faltering before she went off script.

"Tonight they wanted me to say … obviously we want to pray for all the victims and pray for their families, but they also wanted me to do a moment of silence," she told viewers.

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"And I'm so sick of moments of silence. It's not working … obviously. So, why don't we not do a moment of silence, why don't we do a moment of action? Why don't we do a moment of change? Why don't we change what's happening, because it's horrible. And mummies and daddies should be able to send their kids to school, to church, to movie theatres, to clubs … You should be able to live your life without that kind of fear," Clarkson continued.

"We need to do better … because we're failing our children. We're failing our communities. We're failing their families.

"I can't imagine. I have four children — I cannot imagine getting that phone call or that knock on the door. So, instead of a moment of silence, I want to respect [the victims] and honour them … Tonight, y'all, in your community, where you live — let's have a moment of action. Let's have a moment of change," she said, as the audience cheered.

Many on social media praised Clarkson for speaking out — but some criticised her for not actually including the words 'gun control' in her call to action: