Sister Of Newtown Victim, Survivor Of Tucson Shooting, Faith Leaders, And Advocates Gather In Fargo To Urge Senator Heidi Heitkamp To Support Common-Sense Background Checks

Jul 29, 2013, 12:02 ET from Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Heitkamp Voted Against Bipartisan Background Checks Bill That Would Keep Guns Out of Wrong Hands, Even Though 94 Percent of North Dakotans Support This Life-Saving Measure

Event is Part of "No More Names: National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence" Bus Tour;

FARGO, N.D., July 29, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The sister of a victim of the Newtown massacre, a survivor of the 2011 Tucson mass shooting, faith leaders, and local gun violence prevention advocates gathered in Fargo today to voice their continued support for comprehensive and enforceable background checks, and they urged Senator Heidi Heitkamp to reconsider her position on this life-saving measure and take another look at bipartisan background checks legislation.

The rally was part of the "No More Names: National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence" – a 25-state national bus tour over a period of 100 days aimed at urging America's leaders to support common-sense gun policies. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the bipartisan coalition organizing the bus tour, has more than 2,000 grassroots supporters in North Dakota.

It remains far too easy for criminals, domestic abusers, the seriously mentally ill, and other dangerous individuals – people who know they can't pass a background check – to skirt the law and obtain guns by purchasing them online or at gun shows, where background checks are not required under federal law. Bipartisan legislation sponsored by NRA A-rated Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey would have closed this dangerous loophole by extending background checks to commercial gun sales. But in April, Senator Heitkamp joined a minority of senators in voting to block this sensible legislation.

In trying to justify her vote, Senator Heitkamp said: "I have an obligation to listen to North Dakota and this was what North Dakotans believe."[1] But in reality, 94 percent of North Dakotans support background checks for all gun sales. On Monday, participants called on Heitkamp to stand with the people she represents and vote to support common-sense gun laws.

Participants included: Carlee Soto, whose sister Victoria – a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School – was killed in the Newtown massacre; Bill Badger, a Republican gun owner, retired U.S. Army Colonel, and a survivor of the 2011 Tucson mass shooting who tackled the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, and helped save lives; Susan Beehler, North Dakota Chapter Leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America; Pastor Peter Schmidt, Faith Lutheran Church of West Fargo; former Fargo Mayor Jon Lindgren.

"After my sister was shot and killed in her classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, I saw firsthand the destructive nature of gun violence in America," said Carlee Soto, whose sister Victoria was a teacher in Newtown. "Gun violence knows no bounds, and it can claim lives and tear apart communities anywhere, from our biggest cities to our smallest towns. Nothing can bring my sister back, but we can certainly work hard to ensure that other Americans don't have to experience the pain and anguish that my family will live with for the rest of our lives. It's time for our elected officials, including Senator Heitkamp, to take meaningful action by passing common-sense background checks legislation that will keep guns out of the wrong hands – and help save lives."

"When I served in the U.S. Army, I knew there was a risk that I'd come under fire. But it wasn't until I had retired and was visiting my Congresswoman at the neighborhood supermarket that I was shot and injured, and came face-to-face with the true perils of gun violence," said Bill Badger, a Republican gun owner and a survivor of the 2011 Tucson shooting. "It's time for Congress to address the warfare that takes place every single day in our streets because of our broken gun laws."

"Too many Americans are being killed by the epidemic of gun violence in this country," said Pastor Peter Schmidt of the Faith Lutheran Church in West Fargo. "We need our leaders to do everything in their power to stop the bloodshed and help prevent more families from having to bury their loved ones. We cannot afford to wait any longer."

"Both Senators Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven have chosen to do little about our country's epidemic of gun violence, even though hundreds of children have been killed with guns since the tragedy in Sandy Hook," said Susan Beehler of Moms Demand Action. "Both of our senators support our Second Amendment right, as I do too, and a background check does not infringe on that right. All gun sales – whether they be online, through classified ads, through local newspaper ads, or at a gun show – should be subjected to a background check to prevent those who should not have a gun from easily bypassing our system to buy one. Our senators should stand with America's mothers, who are demanding common-sense gun laws to protect our kids. North Dakotans – and the thousands of Americans killed with guns every year – deserve better."

During the rally, participants and attendees also read the names of victims of gun violence who have been killed since the Newtown mass shooting in December 2012.

Rates of gun crime and gun violence in North Dakota are higher than the national average and far higher than states that require background checks for private handgun sales – making Senator Heitkamp's failure to support sensible gun legislation that much more difficult to explain. In North Dakota:

  • In 2010, the number of suicides committed with firearms was 32 percent more than the national average and 103 percent more than in states that require background checks for private handgun sales.[2]
  • Between 2001 and 2011, the number of law enforcement officers killed with handguns was 26 percent than the national rate and 72 percent more than the rate in states that require background checks for private handgun sales.[3]
  • In 2009, the number of guns sold by North Dakota dealers that were recovered at crime scenes outside of the state and successfully traced was 77 percent more than the rate of states that require background checks for private handgun sales.[4]

The No More Names tour provides an opportunity for the more than 90 percent of Americans who support background checks to drive home a message to our elected officials that our country needs common-sense gun laws. At each stop, participants are holding rallies with a broad coalition of supporters – including police, survivors, domestic violence prevention advocates, mayors, and other elected officials – to commemorate those we've lost and call on our leaders to stand with the American people on sensible gun policies. They both applaud senators who voted to support comprehensive and enforceable background checks, and urge those who opposed this measure to take a second look.

States on the tour include: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin. For more information, please visit

Evidence demonstrates that background checks help save lives. In states that already require background checks for all handgun sales:

  • Gun trafficking was 48 percent lower than in states that fail to require background checks for all handgun sales.[5]
  • The rate of women murdered by an intimate partner with a gun was 38 percent lower than in other states, while the rate murdered by other means was nearly identical.[6]
  • The firearm suicide rate was 49 percent lower than in other states, even though people committed suicide in other ways at almost precisely the same rate.[7]
  • Thirty-nine percent fewer law enforcement officers were shot to death with handguns.[8]

About Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Since its creation in April 2006, Mayors Against Illegal Guns has grown from 15 members to more than 1,000 mayors from across the country. The group has more than 1.5 million grassroots supporters – including more than 2,000 in North Dakota – making it the largest gun violence prevention advocacy organization in the country. The bipartisan coalition, co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, has united the nation's mayors around these common goals: protecting communities by holding gun offenders accountable; demanding access to crime gun trace data that is critical to law enforcement efforts to combat gun trafficking; and working with legislators to fix weaknesses and loopholes in the law that make it far too easy for criminals and other dangerous people to get guns. Learn more at


[2] Centers for Disease Control. Fatal Injury Reports. 2010.

[3] Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2001-2011. Law enforcement killed with handguns that were not their own.

[4] Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 2009. Available at

[5] Daniel Webster, Jon Vernick, and Maria Bulzacchelli, "Effects of State-Level Firearm Seller Accountability Policies on Firearm Trafficking," Journal of Urban Health, July 2009.

[6] U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Supplementary Homicide Reports, 2010.

[7] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2005) [cited 2012 Dec. 20].

[8] Federal Bureau of Investigation. LEOKA Database, 2001-2011 (Accessed Mar. 2013).


Alex Katz: or 212-788-7617
Stacey Radnor: or 202-870-6668
Kayla Keller: or 281-682-6212

SOURCE Mayors Against Illegal Guns