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Gabby Giffords, Mark Kelly stump for gun control, Democrats in Minneapolis

October 26, 2018 GMT

Democratic politicians got some help in the closing days of the campaign from national gun control advocates Friday, as they try to rally progressives and voters newly motivated by the gun issue.

Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who survived a Tuscon gun massacre in 2011, was joined by her husband Mark Kelly, an astronaut and Naval aviator, on the campus of the University of Minnesota. They led a roundtable discussion with gun control activists and Democratic candidates U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, Dean Phillips and state Rep. Ilhan Omar. Walz is the Democratic nominee for governor; Phillips and Omar are running for Congress.

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Giffords and Kelly were scheduled to lead a get-out-the-vote rally later in the day featuring Comedy Central personality Jordan Klepper and survivors of the gun massacre earlier this year at a high school in Parkland, Fla.

We must stop gun violence. Make our country a safer place, a better place, said Giffords, who still speaks haltingly after being shot in the head. Stand with me. Vote, vote, vote. On Election Day, your voice matters. Join your voice with mine.

Bryan Strawser, chairman of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, called the visit yet another appearance of an out-of-state, well-funded, gun control group attempting to influence Minnesota elections.

Minnesotans arent going to fall for their agenda, he added.

The willingness of Walz and Phillips to appear with such well known gun control advocates illustrates how the politics of the gun issue has changed just in the past few years, during which a string of mass shootings has beset American communities in Connecticut, Colorado, Virginia Tech, Orlando and Las Vegas.

A Star Tribune Minnesota Poll earlier this year showed strong majorities favor new gun control measures like banning military style rifles and raising the age for gun purchases from 18 to 21.

But gun rights supporters remain dominant at the State Capitol, where Republicans and more than a few Democrats represent regions where guns are commonplace and restrictions on gun owners are viewed with suspicion.

Kelly, who flew four missions for NASA, was blunt about what needs to happen if new gun control measures are to be enacted: Weve been running around the country for the past few months trying to get the right people in office, he said. We need to flip the House.

Kelly then introduced a number of gun control advocates, including religious figures, people who have lost loved ones to gun violence and the politicians.

Walz, who was once endorsed by the National Rifle Association until publicly breaking with the group during the past year or so, said even people in rural communities like in his congressional district have been affected by gun violence, specifically suicide.

Walz castigated his old allies in the NRA: They are not interested in fixing this problem, he said.

J. Patrick Coolican 651-925-5042