With Gabby Giffords on hand urging them to “never stop fighting,” suburban DFL candidates for Congress and the Legislature united on Wednesday around a push for tougher gun laws.

Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman seriously injured in a shooting in 2011, is spokeswoman and co-founder of one of several national groups that advocate tightening gun laws and that are steering resources to legislative races around the country, including in Minnesota. Some DFL lawmakers tried earlier this year to tighten background checks on gun purchases, but they were blocked as usual by a long-standing coalition between Republicans and rural DFLers.

“It’s time we had some sensible voices in the Legislature that stand up for what the vocal majority wants,” said Laurie Pryor, a DFLer running for an open House seat that includes parts of Minnetonka and Eden Prairie.

The politicians and activists gathered in a Minnetonka parking lot to kick off a canvass and phone bank of area neighborhoods on behalf of DFL candidates for the state House and Senate, as well as for state Sen. Terri Bonoff, who is running for the congressional seat now held by Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen.

Gifford’s group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, is a political action committee that aims to “make the 2016 election a referendum on gun violence prevention,” according to a news release from the group.

The Minnetonka event was followed by one in Apple Valley, another suburban swing area in upcoming congressional and legislative elections. A larger rally is planned for St. Paul on Thursday.

A separate national gun rights group with similar aims, Moms Demand Action, also plans to engage in legislative races. The group, founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is mobilizing volunteers for door-knocking campaigns on behalf of DFL candidates this weekend in several suburban legislative districts.