Gabby Giffords leads new Minn. coalition to reduce gun violence

Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords visits Minnesota on Thursday to announce a new coalition focused on reducing gun violence. (Photo courtesy: Bob Crippa, KARE) 
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords visited Minnesota to announce a new state initiative focused on reducing gun violence. The "Minnesota Coalition for Common Sense" is a bipartisan effort focused on keeping guns out of the wrong hands.

"Stopping gun violence takes courage. The courage to do what's right. The courage of new ideas. I've seen great courage when my life was on the line," Congresswoman Giffords said.

Giffords was shot in the head by Jared Loughner in Arizona in 2011. Loughner is now serving seven consecutive life sentences at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn.

Thursday morning, Giffords was joined by her husband, Captain Mark Kelly, as well as Minnesota leaders for the announcement hosted by Augsburg College. 

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The coalition's leaders will focus on closing the loopholes in Minnesota law. Currently in Minnesota, criminal background checks are required for licensed firearms dealers, both online and at gun shows. Background checks are not required for individual or private sales in these arenas. The coalition's hope is to keep guns out of the hands of felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill.

"Why do we give these people that option? It doesn't make any sense and we shouldn't do this," Captain Kelly said.

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom is a member of the coalition. He added, "I own a gun. I support the Second Amendment. We should all value the rights and freedoms afforded under our constitution. But with freedom comes responsibility."

Backstrom was also joined by several local law enforcement leaders, including Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell and Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau. 

The coalition also wants to strengthen the federal criminal background check system by making sure it contains states' records. 

After the announcement, members of the coalition held a roundtable discussion.

"Without a team of people working on it weekly, it's hard to get change. So that's the purpose of this organization coming together is to have a group of smart, talented people who care about a serious issue and get legislation to the desk of your governor," Captain Kelly said.

Congresswoman Giffords and Captain Kelly then toured the indoor shooting range at the West St. Paul Police Department.

Recently, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence's gave Minnesota a "C" grade in its 2015 Gun Law State Scorecard.