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Both sides of gun control issue show up at Fargo rally

Carlee Soto, front, who's sister was killed in the Newtown massacre, speaks during a gun-control rally organized by Mayors Agains Illegal Guns on Monday, July 29, 2013, in Island Park, Fargo, N.D. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO – The sister of a teacher who was shot and killed in her classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School spoke in Fargo this morning about the need for universal background checks for gun sales.

“Gun violence knows no bounds,” said Carlee Soto, who added that while background checks won’t prevent all shootings, she maintained they will help save lives.

Soto spoke in Fargo’s Island Park at a rally organized by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an event the gun control group held in hopes of pressuring U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, to reconsider her vote earlier this year against a failed bill to expand background checks on guns. Heitkamp was one of five Democrats in the Senate to oppose the bill.

Former Fargo Mayor Jon Lindgren read from a list of people who have died from gun violence since the Sandy Hook shooting in December, which took the life of Soto’s sister, Victoria, as well as five other adults and 20 children.

This morning’s rally was also attended by a group of people carrying signs who oppose strengthening background checks for gun sales.

Dan Freeman, of Fargo, was among them.

“We’ve got enough laws on the books. It’s not stopping gun violence,” Freeman said.

Mary Jane Haugen, a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother from Moorhead, attended the event in support of background checks.

As she listened to Lindgren read the names of victims of shootings, Haugen said the country must try something to address the ever growing numbers of gun victims.

“How can we not?” she said.

As he indicated before the event, Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker was not at today’s rally. Walaker, who several years ago joined Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an organization started by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said gun violence in Fargo is not a major problem.

Susan Beehler, head of the North Dakota chapter of Moms Demand Action, disagreed with Walaker.

“Gun violence is not just a big city problem, it affects North Dakotans,” said Beehler of Mandan.

Dave Olson | INFORUM

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