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Long-Planned Gun Control Rally Takes on New Urgency

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AR-15s were used in mass shootings in Newtown, San Bernardino, Las Vegas and Parkland. (Jonathan James/Flickr)
AR-15s were used in mass shootings in Newtown, San Bernardino, Las Vegas and Parkland. (Jonathan James/Flickr)
 By Laurie SternContact
February 22, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota legislative session is beginning with an emphasis on gun control.

The mass shooting at a high school in Florida brought hundreds to the State Capitol for a rally on Tuesday, and another demonstration is planned for Thursday afternoon. The rally is set to follow a morning of meetings between constituents and lawmakers who want better gun laws.

The rally was organized by Protect Minnesota, where Executive Director Rev. Nancy Nord Bence said the nonprofit group's phones have not stopped ringing since last week's shooting. She's expecting a big turnout.

"Some months ago, I was hoping I'd get 200. Wow, is that not going to be the case anymore,” Nord Bence said. “I think it's going to be big."

Before the 2 p.m. rally in the rotunda, Protect Minnesota will announce the introduction of two new bills addressing gun violence.

Nord Bence said Protect Minnesota opposes the “stand your ground" and permit-less carry bills that were in committee last year. It's pushing legislators to hear a bill that would mandate criminal background checks before all gun purchases.

"We are not anti-gun,” she said. “We are anti-gun violence and so is the vast majority of the population that owns guns."

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows two-thirds of American voters support stricter gun control, the highest percentage the poll has ever measured.

Nord Bence said the young survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have inspired other students, parents and teachers to get involved.

"And here's the sad reality: If it doesn't change this time, there will be a next time and a time after that and a time after that,” she said.

Protect Minnesota and other anti-gun violence groups are also participating in the national student-led rally locally and in Washington, D.C., on March 24.

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