Jul 23, 2013 9:03 PM by Marnee Banks (marnee@kxlh.com)

Gun control supporters rally in Helena

HELENA - Gun control supporters rallied on the Capitol steps in Helena on Tuesday, urging Congress to make changes to the nation's firearm laws.

Gun control advocates read the names of hundreds of people who have been shot to death in recent years.

Scott Swanson, a member of the Gallatin County DUI Task Force and the former deputy police chief in Santa Rosa, California, said, "Today is both a memorial to those persons lost to gun violence, whose names you've been hearing read. And it's also a call to action."

They want Congress to pass more stringent gun laws requiring every gun owner to pass a background check before purchasing a weapon.

They also want to ban semi-automatic weapons for recreational use.

For Montana State Representative Amanda Curtis (D-Butte) the issue is personal; she recalled, "The doctor and the chaplain sat us down and said, 'Your 16 year old brother was at a party last night and he shot himself playing Russian roulette. And he was dead when he got here.' That's personal."

These people are targeting their message at U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), hoping that he will support universal background checks.

A spokesperson for Baucus said, "Max understands that what works in New York or California doesn't necessarily work for Montana. Instead of a one-size-fits all approach, Max voted to boost gun prosecution in inner cities and high-crime areas without adding burdens on law-abiding folks in Montana."

But gun control supporters say that isn't enough, because more and more people continue to die as a result of gun violence.

Vern Tolstedt, the father of a gun violence victim, noted, "No laws will ever completely eliminate criminal use of firearms but every little bit helps."

The event was organized by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group started by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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