Gabby Giffords, Minnesota lawmakers push for strong gun laws

- Former congresswoman Gabby Giffords met with state lawmakers Tuesday on ways to push for strong gun laws, including universal background checks on all firearms purchases.

Giffords entered the State Office Building of the Capitol complex where lawmakers reside hoping to thaw the votes on background checks that are for now frozen solid.

“Stopping gun violence takes courage, the courage to do what’s right, the courage of new ideas," Giffords said at a news conference with members of the newly formed Minnesota Coalition for Common Sense.

Giffords also traveled to the Governor’s Residence to meet Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith. 

Peter Ambler of Americans for Responsible Solutions, which Giffords founded with her husband, retired space shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly, said Giffords’ second visit to Minnesota this year was about building support for eventually passing universal background checks.

“We’re going to be active as an organization educating people about what the important issues are and they’ll be able to see for themselves who is a champion for common sense and  who isn’t,”  Ambler said.

State Sen. Ron Latz and Rep. Danny Schoen have introduced companion bills to enact universal background checks on all firearms transfers.  The bill received an informational hearing in the Senate, but so far has been blocked in the republican controlled House.  The chairman of the powerful Public Safe Committee, Rep. Tony Cornish said at the beginning of the legislative session that there would be no guns bills heard this year.

Like Giffords, Latz is also trying to lay the groundwork for next year.

“We know in other states that have closed these loopholes rates of gun murders and gun suicides have dropped significantly,” Latz said. 

Schoen, who also serves as a Cottage Grove police officer, acknowledges that it is a touch issue in Minnesota given its deep culture and history of hunting and gun ownership.

Schoen adds, “We all enjoy our history but our history shows us that we can do better on behalf of victims.”

Gun rights advocates see it differently. 

"It is long past time that those truly interested in addressing gun violence turn their attention away from the failed gun control strategies of the past, and begin to focus on violent criminals instead of law-abiding citizens," Rob Doar of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus said in a statement.

Opponents to the legislation strongly believe it will have a chilling effect on gun ownership and lead to a national registry on guns.

It’s all a politically charged debate that lawmakers concede will not lead to passing any legislation in an election year.

“It’s a bipartisan effort in reality," Schoen said. "Unfortunately at the capitol reality doesn’t always exist." 

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