Two of the country’s leading advocates of enhanced background checks for gun purchases headlined Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley’s afternoon fundraiser today. Gabby Gifford is the former Arizona congresswoman who was nearly assassinated in 2011.

“I’m working hard — lots of therapy: speech therapy, (physical) therapy and yoga, too, but my spirit’s strong as ever. I’m still fighting to make the world a better place and you can, too,” Giffords said. “Be passionate. Be courageous.  Be your best.”

Giffords spoke briefly after her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, addressed the crowd of Braley backers. He made the couple’s pitch for what they call “common sense” regulations to keep guns out of the hands of the seriously mentally ill, domestic abusers and criminals.

“When dangerous people get guns, we’re all vulnerable,” Kelly said, “vulnerable at the movies, at church, going to work, and time after time after time on our campuses and even in our childrens’ classrooms.”

According to Kelly, gun safety and gun rights are too often pitted against each other.

“Gabby and I both believe wholly and completely in the Second Amendment and that it extends to all Americans that right to own a firearm and we take that right every seriously,” Kelley said, “and we would never, ever give it up — just like Gabby would never give up her gun or I would give up mine — but rights demand responsibility.”

Braley talked about his friendship with Giffords, but did not talk about enhanced background checks, which he supports.  Braley delivered the mostly biographical speech he’s been giving on the campaign trail, but he added a dig at Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the Tea Party favorite who headlined an Iowa GOP fundraiser Friday night.

“If you’ve been waiting in line to see Ted Cruz, you’re going to be sorely disappointed,” Braley said and the crowd laughed. “But I’m sure that Ted would have loved to have looked out at an audience of this size while he was in Iowa and I think this is a good symbol of why Democrats are going to have a great year in Iowa in 2014.”

Kurt Meyer, Braley’s fundraising co-chair, also bragged about the size of the crowd, compared to the one that greeted Cruz in Des Moines Friday night.

“There are 1200 people here today which is more than twice as many that came to show up for some bogus senator from Texas that was in Iowa the other day,” he said, pounding the lectern as the crowd cheered. “And clearly there’s a lot more enthusiasm here today than there was that night.”

AUDIO of Braley, Kelly and Giffords at Braley fundraiser, 44:00

This afternoon’s event was held on the Iowa State Fairgrounds, signifying Braley is now a statewide candidate for the U.S. Senate now. It was the first time Braley has held his annual “Bruce, Blues and BBQ” fundraiser outside his congressional district.