Gabrielle Giffords in Minnesota, calls for gun control

Gabrielle Giffords speaks at Augsburg College
Former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords speaks at Augsburg College Thursday. She's urging Minnesota politicians to close gun law loopholes in the state that allow the purchase of guns online and at gun shows without background checks.
Peter Cox | MPR News

Gabrielle Giffords urged changes in Minnesota gun laws Thursday, asking legislators to consider requiring background checks on gun show and online purchases.

The former Arizona U.S. congresswoman was shot in the head in 2011 during a public event in Tucson. Six people were killed and 12 others were injured in the attack.

"Stopping gun violence takes courage. The courage to do what's right. The courage of new ideas," Giffords said at an event at Augsburg College. "I've seen great courage when my life was on the line. Now is the time for to come together — to be responsible. Democrats, Republicans, everyone."

Since 2013, Giffords and her husband, retired Navy combat veteran and NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, are focusing on gun laws at the state level.

Several law enforcement leaders, including Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau, joined Giffords and Kelly in announcing the formation of the Minnesota Coalition for Common Sense.

In Minnesota, as in many other states, it's legal for a person to sell a gun without submitting the buyer to a background check.

The state has already taken steps in other areas, such as preventing people who are committed as mentally ill and dangerous from possessing guns. The state courts also digitized nearly 70,000 court commitment records and added them to the background check system.

Catherine Mortensen, a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, says she doesn't believe more background checks will reduce gun crimes.

"Unfortunately, by definition, criminals are not going to obey the law," she said. "You can pass all the laws you want. And time and again we've seen that criminals find a way around those laws. And what those laws end up doing is burdening the law abiding citizens."

Mortensen says the NRA will be lobbying hard in Minnesota this year against universal background checks.

"We will be fighting this with all the resources we have," she said.

Brandt Williams contributed reporting for this story.