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Fargo mayor distances himself from Bloomberg's gun control group

FARGO -- A pro-gun control group of mayors started by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has scheduled an event in Fargo on Monday, but Bloomberg himself is not expected to attend.

Neither is Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker, who said he's gotten nothing but flak from the tri-state area since announcing his membership in Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns group years ago.

"I've never resigned, but I'm not an active member either. So I don't plan on attending," Walaker said, adding that he hadn't heard of the event until he was contacted by a reporter.

Walaker is the only North Dakota mayor in Bloomberg's coalition, according to the group's official website. The site claims more than 900 mayors as members.

The event is at 10 a.m. Monday in Island Park, and Bloomberg will definitely not be in attendance, said Kelly Steele, a spokesman for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which was formed by Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino in 2006.

The Fargo visit is part of the group's 100-day "No More Names" summer tour across 25 states. The tour is serving as a rallying event for gun violence survivors, their families and community members who support "common sense gun laws," Steele said.

Bloomberg hasn't attended any of the events so far, Steele said. The tour started June 14.

The names of those who have been killed by gun violence will be read at the event, said Karena Carlson, Fargo communications manager.

Walaker guessed Bloomberg's tour was making a stop in Fargo because of the mayoral group's recent spat with U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

In June, Bloomberg sent a letter to 1,100 New York City donors discouraging them from supporting Heitkamp and other senators who opposed expanding background checks.

"They all think they can change her (Heitkamp's) mind, and I don't think that's going to happen," Walaker said.

But Walaker said his inactivity in the mayoral gun control coalition -- he's attended only one meeting since joining in 2007 -- is not because of the group's recent history with Heitkamp.

Walaker has been distancing himself from the group for years, he said, primarily because he doesn't want to get involved in big-city politics he says has little to do with Fargo.

"I can understand the problems in the big cities. I can understand Boston and New York City," he said. "But is it a problem here in North Dakota? I don't think so."

In 2009, the National Rifle Association led a campaign asking people to email Walaker and encourage him to leave Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Walaker said residents from South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota let him have it.

"I got emails from all over. And I just don't think it's worth it," he said.

On the whole, Walaker said the pro-gun lobby has too much control over Congress and that the conversation has become "very futile."

"I just don't think that gun control is ever going to happen," he said. "There's too many people that control Congress that are going to continue to control the Congress."

Walaker said he still believes in some gun control. While he owns four guns and uses them for hunting, he said he doesn't believe automatic weapons should be available for the general public.

But then he pointed to Congress's failure to act following mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut last year.

"If that didn't bring everything to a point, then nothing's going to change," Walaker said.