Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, are in Anchorage to meet with gun owners and put pressure on Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski to support expanded background checks for gun buyers.
Giffords is the Arizona Democrat who survived an assassination attempt at a 2011 meet-and-greet in Tucson. Earlier this year, in response to the December school shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn., she and Kelly founded a gun violence prevention group called Americans for Responsible Solutions. They are calling this summer's trek the "Rights and Responsibilities" tour.
The two are flying into key states whose senators voted against expanding background checks.
Begich is one of four Democrats who broke party ranks and voted against a watered-down bill in April, drawing proponents' ire. He has said the expanded background checks don't make sense for Alaska, especially in rural areas where gun sellers may not have access to high-speed Internet.
"Senator Begich and Senator Murkowski are independent leaders who put aside special interests to advocate for Alaska," Kelly said in a written statement. "They have the same opportunity when it comes to promoting responsible gun ownership. By supporting responsible policies like background checks, they can forge a middle path that makes their communities safer and protects the rights and traditions that are important to Alaskans."
Giffords and Kelly were scheduled to arrive in Anchorage Monday evening. They are visiting a shooting range and holding a roundtable with a small group of gun owners on Tuesday morning. They plan to talk with news reporters mid-day.
Their group commissioned a state-by-state poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research that found 72 percent of Alaska voters support background checks on all gun sales.
Next stop: North Dakota, where freshman Sen. Heidi Heikamp, another Democrat, also voted no on the proposal before Congress. Other states on the tour include Nevada, Ohio and New Hampshire.
They also are visiting Maine and North Carolina, where there are high percentages of gun owners and where senators supported the background checks.
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By LISA DEMER