By Stephanie McCrummen
The Washington Post
FARGO, N.D. — One recent afternoon, Susan Beehler, who may be the only gun-control advocate in all of North Dakota, walked into VFW Post 762, a dimly lit, wood-paneled bar in downtown Fargo.
It was, perhaps, the gun-friendliest place in one of the gun-friendliest states in America; a state where gun rights are so sacred that violent felons can have them restored, where guns are so ordinary that a handwritten flier for high-capacity ammunition clips was recently posted on a grocery store bulletin board, next to one for a pinochle tournament.
Still, Beehler was optimistic. She headed for a table in the corner, where two men wearing flannel buffalo plaid were sipping drinks.
“Hello there!” she said. “I’m with the Million Moms for Gun Control group, and we’re looking for responsible gun owners!”
Dick Coleman, who owns 15 guns, and Pete Schlenker, who owns 33, nodded.
“We’re just moms interested in reasonable controls that people can live with,” she continued, trying to sound non-threatening. “Like limiting the number of bullets in magazines? Or universal background checks? That kind of thing —”
“Yep,” Schlenker said. Coleman just sipped his drink. Beehler, a little nervous, kept on with her pitch, unsure where it was all going.
President Barack Obama, speaking after the Connecticut school shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead, said he was sure that “the vast majority of responsible, law-abiding gun owners” would support gun-control measures such as universal background checks or a ban on assault rifles. He appealed to the grass roots: Passing the new laws would require “a wave of Americans . . . standing up and saying ‘enough’ on behalf of our kids.”
The White House strategy is all the more critical in states such as North Dakota, where Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat with an A rating from the National Rifle Association, was elected in November. Winning over Heitkamp and other Democrats from gun-friendly states such as New Mexico, Indiana and West Virginia is the least of what the White House must accomplish to pass changes to gun laws, to say nothing of securing the necessary Republican votes.