Hundreds of gun rights advocates gathered on the steps of the state Capitol on Saturday to show their opposition to proposed gun control measures backed by President Barack Obama.
Lawmakers and leaders of gun rights groups who spoke said they were there to send a message that Minnesotans do not support more gun laws. Speakers asked people at the event to contact their federal and state legislators and tell them that more gun control laws would infringe on their rights.
Shelley Leeson, founder of the Twin Cities Gun Owners and Carry Forum and Minnesota For The Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said recent massacres in Colorado and Connecticut have caused a national emotional response that is fueling support for new gun control measures. She said lawmakers should instead be guided by facts that show most gun owners are law-abiding.
Leeson said legislators should concentrate on improving the enforcement of existing laws.
"We have all this talk about loopholes in this system," Leeson said. "Loopholes, loopholes, that's all we hear. How about if we close the loopholes in our failed criminal justice system?"
State Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, echoed her comments, adding that more gun laws will not reduce violent crime.
"I love America -- it's a gun culture, and, unfortunately, sometimes bad things happen with guns, but that's not our fault. It's the criminals' fault, and that's where we've got to put the burden," he said. "We just can't let ourselves be intimidated anymore. It's the bad people who are committing these things, not the good people."
Among those in the crowd was Dunamis Flux of St. Paul, who said that comments by gun rights supporters are often discounted because some people perceive them as "toothless, ignorant, knuckle-dragging troglodytes." But Flux said most gun owners are well-educated.
"It's just that we have the ability to remove emotion from the subject matter and look at it logically, and we can see that more guns do equal less crime," he said. "It's simple. I want to be able to defend my wife and children."
Flux grew up participating in family holiday hunting trips, but he said grew interested in gun rights during the period before Y2K, when some people thought technology would be affected by the transition to the the year 2000.
"I thought that if I'm going to have an ability to defend my family, it's going to have to be me -- not somebody who shows up later to do paperwork," Flux said.
Christine Nelson of Eagan saw the rally as an opportunity to educate her daughter, a student at Eagan High School. Nelson said she wanted her daughter to understand her rights, despite what she is taught at school.
"Those people who are truly educated understand they don't want to give up their rights, because if we start giving up this, what will we give up next?" Nelson said.
In response to a question about gun violence, Nelson said she was sorry that people have been killed by firearms but declined to elaborate.
• Follow Rupa Shenoy on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rupashenoy