Giffords and Kelly came to Anchorage as part of their seven-state tour to persuade reluctant senators to support strengthening background checks on firearms purchases. The Senate leadership tried and failed to corral enough support for a background check amendment in April. Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich both opposed the background checks as proposed in that legislation; two months later, they are targets of a renewed effort to revive the issue before next year's elections complicate the politics. Begich, Alaska's first Democrat in Congress for decades, faces a multimillion-dollar contest to keep his Senate seat.
Giffords and Kelly came to Alaska based on a poll commissioned by Americans for Responsible Solutions, which inexplicably found overwhelming support among Alaska voters for the expanded background checks.
"We want Sen. Begich to look at our poll, because it shows Alaskans believe in expanded background checks," Kelly said.
The couple's time on the ground in Alaska was tightly controlled: Local press was kept separate from Giffords and Kelly during a closed conversation with nine hand-picked Alaskan gun owners at Hotel Captain Cook.
Giffords did not take direct questions Tuesday but did pose for pictures and video with others in the group, before another photo op with the couple's dog, Nelson.
Giffords and Kelly are seeking 60 Senate votes, the threshold for passing the background check legislation and avoiding a filibuster. Both Murkowski and Begich are in Alaska for the Fourth of July holiday, but were unable to welcome Giffords and Kelly personally, staff to the senators said.
Yet even if Giffords and Kelly are able to sway Alaska's senators -- "not likely" in the legislation's current form, according to staff -- two additional votes are still needed to get the measure out of the Senate and on to the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans.
And that's a hill that supporters of background checks can’t yet summit, Kelly acknowledged Tuesday.
"Would that bill pass this House? Absolutely not," he said, adding the strategy for now is to get background checks passed by the Senate and then look forward to leveling "the playing field" in the House.
As much as I appreciate Mark and Gabby coming up here they really are most likely wasting their time.
If they want to know how Alaskans feel about their guns let me help with that. They LOVE them! Sometimes they even love them more than their own families. (You think Track is the only Alaskan male to leave a marriage with an armful of rifles and not much else? Hardly!)
Right now Mark Begich is running ads attacking President Obama over the NSA program, bragging about his vote on the background check bill, and sounding more like a Republican everyday.
But do you know what? NOBODY is going to run against him in a primary.
I am probably one of the most liberal people up here, and completely agree with Giffords and Kelly on this issue, but when election time rolls around of course I am going to vote for Begich. In Alaska what other choice do I have?
Like I said I am glad they came, though I wish they would have been open to a few questions from bloggers. I also heard they came looking for some financial support, and I hope they got at least some, though I would be surprised if they had very much help in that area either.
They don't call this place the Last Frontier for nothing. And that is never more true than when it comes to guns.