Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords visited Anchorage on Tuesday along with her husband, Mark Kelly, as part of a multi-state tour to promote ongoing efforts to reform the nation's gun laws.
Two years ago at a political event in Tucson, Ariz., Giffords, a Democrat from that state, was shot in the head by Jared Loughner. Six people were killed. 12 others were injured by the gunfire.
Giffords is now on a mission. She calls her current effort the "Rights and Responsibilities Tour," and Alaska is among the seven states she will visit during a weeklong stretch.
The main policy change the couple is promoting along the way is a requirement that a background check of criminal and mental health records is performed before all gun sales. Checks are already required when a gun is sold in store, but it's possible to sell or trade firearms when a store isn't involved.
"We're not here about political strategy," Kelly said to press from Resolution Park. "We're more here to learn how Alaskans feel about this issue."
Despite polls presented by Giffords' political action committee suggesting Alaskans want to expanded background checks; it is a tough sell in the state.
An effort to pass that type of legislation change earlier this year fell short even in the Democrat-controlled Senate. A vote against the law by Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, is part of the reason the bill didn't even make it to the House.
Begich has boasted the vote in radio ads and casts his vote as a protection against encroachment of Second Amendment rights.
Kelly disagrees. He points out that checks are already performed for most transactions.
"I doubt Sen. Begich would think that's an erosion of your Second Amendment rights," said Kelly. "So I'm not sure what that comment means."
Whether criminals commonly obtain firearms at gun shows, or through illegal means, is a point of contention.
"Criminals don't obtain their guns at gun shows, on a purely statistical basis," said Ken Feinman, owner of Wild West Guns, an Anchorage store." They're stolen. They're bought stolen. They're actually stolen. Bought from friends or neighbors or whatever, but they're not bought at gun shows."
While in Anchorage, Giffords and Kelly hosted a "roundtable discussion" that brought together hand-picked gun owners. They are also visited a local firing range and dropped hunting references when reporters were nearby.
Whatever happens next on gun policy in Washington, at least one of the people who attended the roundtable thinks everyone would benefit from a broader discussion -- on background checks, mental health, poverty and the array of issues that leads to gun-related violence.
"The problem from my perspective isn't per se guns, it's gun violence," said Mike Gutierrez The bigger problem is violence in general, and there are going to have to be a lot of approaches to that."