Tracker Pixel for Entry

Gabby Giffords calls for common sense gun legislation at Fargo’s Atomic Coffee

by Bryce Haugen | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | News | July 11th, 2013

A former congresswoman who has turned tragedy into activism dropped by Fargo last Wednesday with her astronaut husband to promote “common-sense steps” to curb gun violence.

About a hundred people gathered in downtown Fargo’s Atomic Coffee to hear from Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head more than two years ago at a meet-and-greet in Tucson, Ariz., and her husband Mark Kelly, who flew on four space shuttle missions. The short visit was one leg of a weeklong “Rights and Responsibilities Tour” across seven states. The tour kicked off in Nevada and ended Sunday in North Carolina. Earlier last Wednesday, the two stopped in Bismarck.

After intensive recovery from the attempted assassination, which killed six of her constituents, Giffords has emerged as one of the nation’s most recognized advocates for changes in gun policy. In January, she and Kelly founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, a political action committee, to promote the cause. At the Fargo stop, Kelly did most of the speaking, specifically urging congress to expand background checks to gun show and Internet gun sales.

“We have to make it harder for criminals and the dangerously mentally ill to get guns,” he said. “It’s a simple thing we have to do.”

But Giffords provided a powerful, inspirational presence. Standing on a ladder to be seen by the scores of supporters, she issued a call to action.

“Now is the time to come together. Democrats, Republicans, everyone,” she said to rapturous applause. “Be bold. Be courageous. The nation is counting on you.”

Kelly made sure to acknowledge the hunting culture in North Dakota and the reticence of many in the state for new gun legislation, proclaiming himself and Giffords as gun owners and supporters of 2nd Amendment rights.

“We understand the importance of the 2nd Amendment … but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some common-sense gun legislation,” he said.

In one of the two questions Kelly took from the audience, a Fargo man asked how gun control legislation can be justified given the declining levels of gun violence nationwide.

Kelly said that the issue shouldn’t be seen as an either-or choice between gun rights and new gun laws.

“We can have it both ways,” he said.

Most people interviewed at the event said they support strengthening gun laws.

“I’m sorry for what (Giffords and Kelly) have gone through and I admire the cause,” said Fargo resident Luanna Kennelly.

Ryan Mooney, a 15-year-old from Traill County, said he doesn’t understand why people oppose what he thinks is reasonable gun law reform.

“I don’t see why a civilian should have a military grade weapon,” he said. “There’s no reason why a hunter should have an AK-47.”

His mother, state Rep. Gail Mooney (D-Cummings), said she needs to become better informed before forming an opinion on new laws, but “would like to see responsible and appropriate gun legislation come forward.”

“We’ll never get anywhere if we don’t have discussion,” she said, noting the only laws the North Dakota legislature considered last term were to loosen, not tighten, gun restrictions.

Other crowd members voiced support for legislation to improve mental health.

When it comes to controlling guns, “there’s only so much we can do,” said Fargo resident Bjorn Solberg. But with mental health legislation and overall awareness of those issues, he said, “I think that can be more easily addressed on a societal scale. We’ve got to start somewhere.”

There were a few fierce gun control opponents scattered throughout the audience, including Nathan Pullen, a Fargo resident and great-nephew of former North Dakota Gov. Art Link. Pullen lauded the state’s U.S. senators, Heidi Heitkamp (Democrat) and John Hoeven (Republican), for voting against a bill that would have expanded background checks, saying the bill “was shot down for a reason.”

“We already have good gun laws in North Dakota,” said Pullen, who sports a deer tattoo and named his kid Hunter. “We have lenient laws … We don’t need expanded background checks.”

Across the room, Clint Hvinden from West Fargo, was quietly yet conspicuously showing his opposition with a National Rifle Association hat and a shirt that taunted gun control advocates to “Come and Take It.” Hvinden owns a gun shop that sells the kind of high powered rifles recent legislation has aimed to outlaw.

“The danger is not mental illness, it’s the government control,” he said.

Why do people need to own such powerful weapons and large clips?

Hvinden’s brother and gun shop co-owner Kevin Ambers chimed in: “It’s a Bill of Rights not a Bill of Needs. (They have) no right to tell me what I need to defend my family. Nobody has any right to tell another individual how to defend themselves.”

With gun legislation failing to get the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster in the Senate and Republican-controlled House even more opposed to stricter laws, the movement to strengthen them has stagnated after a boost of momentum following the massacre of 26 people at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school in December.

In a news conference after the Fargo event, Kelly expressed hope that the work Americans for Responsible Solutions is doing can counteract the powerful gun lobby and swing the pendulum back in the reform direction.

Although he said he and Giffords came to North Dakota to learn about residents’ thoughts on reform - not to pressure the two senators, who were asked but did not meet with the two advocates during the visit, to vote differently next time gun legislation comes up - Kelly hopes Heitkamp changes her mind on the issue.

Kelly pointed to a recent Americans for Responsible Solutions poll that showed 79 percent of North Dakotans favor expanding background checks for gun purchases.

“What polls better than 79 percent?” he asked. “Ice cream and free money.”

Recently in:

Sophia Wilansky says she’s lucky she’s right handed. Since nearly losing her left arm from an exploding projectile on Backwater Bridge one year ago, cooking has become a tedious art. She can no longer be involved in circus…

The Transgender Day of Remembrance memorializes the trans individuals who have lost their lives due to violence this year. It is a day where we read their names and remember them—not how they died, but how they lived. This is also…

Thursday, November 16, 7-9pmUnglued, 408 Broadway N, FargoProof Artisan Distillers and Unglued present a craft party with four distinct projects and help from artists Ashley from AENDEE and Nicole Rae, not to mention a special…

“The experience of all ages has proved that the people constantly give away their liberties.” - John Adams“Man’s dishonesty with himself is his greatest enemy. When he makes a mistake, his memory admits, ‘I have done…

The thoughts and prayers of politicians will finally be answeredWe have had 307 mass shootings (four kills or more) so far in 2017, including the last one in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 26 mortals attending church, aged 18…

For the third week in a row, our panel of judges were out on the town with a thirst for cocktails and a focus on presentation, flavor, and creativity. This week’s adventures took us to a couple of hotspots in south Fargo, as the…

Colder weather, changing leaves, pumpkin spice and more are some of the few things that come to mind when many think of fall. But fall is about much more than sugary lattes and scarves, and you can fully indulge in fall flavors at…

I’m told that there is nothing quite like a live Green Jelly show, where anarchy and foam puppets reign. So perhaps it’s in the spirit of the upcoming show that my intended interview with the mastermind and vocalist behind the…

On Tuesday, November 14 at 7pm, the Fargo Theatre hosted a screening of “The Mission of Herman Stern,” a feature-length documentary chronicling the remarkable humanitarian efforts of the North Dakota businessman and founder, in…

Would you like to escape your stressful daily life with a relaxing arts event? Do you like to meet with old friends and make new ones? Or maybe you would like to start your Christmas and Holiday shopping early. FMVA has the event…

Ted Larson introduced me to Chris Jacobs one evening at Weld Hall in the late 1980s. I was in high school then, but Chris recognized fellow film fanatics, and we would chat a little bit each week. I learned quickly that he loved…

Humor

​Talking to strangers

by Sabrina Hornung

“I don’t have a tour, like, on the back of a sweatshirt,” comedian Paula Poundstone says. “I go out every weekend. This weekend I went out Friday, Saturday and Monday. Mostly it’s Friday/Saturday or Thursday through…

Believe it or not, “The Holidays” are upon us. If you’ve been to Target lately, and I know you have, you may have noticed that the Christmahanakwanzika stuff is already up (if you’re unsure of that term, Google it).In fact,…

Essential oils. They are all the buzz lately. It seems everyone has heard of them or is purchasing them. Some people know how to use them; others are just interested in the wonder of their complex scents.Essential oils are as…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

By Anthony Paul [Editor’s note: This piece contains language that some readers may find offensive]It has been all over social media and the news lately, how our president and commander-in-chief called and spoke with one of these…