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Gabby Giffords brings gun control fight to Minnesota (+video)

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Carolyn Kaster/AP/File

(Read caption) Former US Rep. Gabby Giffords (D) of Arizona speaks on Capitol Hill about bipartisan legislation on gun safety. In the past five years, Giffords has hiked the Grand Canyon, raced in a 40-mile bike ride, sky dived, and founded a gun control advocacy group.

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Former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords is targeting Minnesota in her ongoing campaign to reduce gun violence.

Ms. Giffords will make several stops through Minnesota on Thursday as she launches the “Minnesota Coalition for Common Sense,” an anti-gun violence campaign focused on closing the state’s private sale loophole.

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Giffords, who was shot during a 2011 attack that killed six and wounded 13, has been traveling the country advocating for gun control ever since the incident happened.

Her top priorities include expanding background checks to the sale of guns between private owners, online, or at gun shows, and improving each state’s submissions to the US government’s background system.

“Minnesota has a very long tradition of responsible gun ownership,” said Giffords's spokesman Mark Prentice, reported Citypages. “Minnesotans own guns for hunting, for self-protection. We want solutions that respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and also keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. That’s why the focus is on background checks.”

Minnesota has seen similar measures proposed before, and they have always met heavy resistance from lawmakers.

State Rep. Kim Norton (D), introduced a similar bill in 2013 but it was defeated by groups such as the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, which said that expanded background checks wouldn’t stop criminals from obtaining guns.

"The vast majority of gun violence comes from criminals who are shooting criminals, so when you are passing laws that are focused on restricting access to guns, criminals by definition aren't going to follow them," said Rob Doar, political director for the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, according to the Post-Bulletin.

Still, gun safety advocates contend that the current law is filled with holes. For instance, a state law prohibits knowingly buying a gun for a person who's prohibited from owning one. The word "knowingly" in the law "makes it much more difficult to prosecute," said Heather Martens, executive director with Protect Minnesota, a group that pushes for stricter gun laws, according to MPR news.

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Under current Minnesota law, a buyer is required to go through a local background check at a police department or sheriff's office when applying for a permit to purchase or a permit to carry a gun, and then another check by the FBI when purchasing from a federally licensed gun dealer. The law requires permits to purchase pistols and assault weapons – but it's not required for shotguns.

Minnesota did take a few steps toward gun control in 2014, when lawmakers passed a law banning gun possession for convicted abusers and people subject to restraining orders. The law followed FBI reports showing that seven Minnesota residents were killed each year by spouses, dating partners, or ex-spouses.