March 11th, 2013
03:22 PM ET
5 years ago

Gabby Giffords' husband buys assault weapon

(CNN) – Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords and an outspoken advocate for new gun control measures, purchased an AR-15 assault rifle in Tucson recently as a demonstration of what he says are unobtrusive background checks.

The retired space shuttle commander wrote on his Facebook page he would turn in the weapon – which he said he hadn't yet obtained - to the city's police department.

"Looks like the judiciary committee will vote on background checks next week," Kelly wrote, referring to the Senate panel where gun control legislation is up for a vote this week.

"I just had a background check a few days ago when I went to my local gun store to buy a 45. As I was leaving, I noticed a used AR-15. Bought that too. Even to buy an assault weapon, the background check only takes a matter of minutes," he continued.

Later, on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," Kelly said it was "important for me to have firsthand knowledge about how easy it is or difficult it is to buy a weapon like that."

The AR-15 is one of America's top-selling firearms, and has become a focus of the gun control debate after being used in a recent spate of mass shootings. One was used in the December massacre at a Connecticut elementary school. Advocates for tighter gun laws argue there's no need for Americans to own the powerful rifle, but the gun's proponents say the AR-15's accuracy makes it safe.

Aside from a measure bolstering background checks that's sponsored by New York Democrat Charles Schumer, the Senate Judiciary Committee this week will consider a ban on assault weapons that was introduced by California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, which would outlaw the AR-15 among a host of other military-style weapons.

Last week the judiciary panel approved a bill toughening laws on gun trafficking and straw purchases, but on the issue of background checks – which previously appeared poised for bipartisan support in the legislature – Republicans and Democrats have reached some sticking points.

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have expressed support for expanding the scope of mental health information submitted to the federal background check system used by gun sellers, but some have expressed concern that records would be kept on responsible gun owners.

Bipartisan talks have also failed to reach a compromise that would address the "gun show loophole," which critics say provides an avenue for people who know they cannot pass a background check to obtain guns through private sales.

In his Facebook message about the AR-15 purchase, Kelly wrote it was "scary to think of people buying guns like these without a background check at a gun show or the Internet.

"We really need to close the gun show and private seller loop hole," he concluded.

He added on CNN that he was "looking forward at some point to buying a gun at a gun show, and also possibly selling a gun."

Last week, Giffords support for background checks alongside her husband at a gun control rally in Tucson, Arizona, the same place where an assailant shot her in the head.

The former congresswoman urged lawmakers to "Be bold. Be courageous. Please support background checks."

At the event, Kelly said his newly formed gun-control organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, was sending a letter to U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Arizona Republicans, urging them to support background-check legislation. McCain suggested last month that such legislation would have success in the Senate.

CNN's Tom Cohen contributed to this report.

Filed under: Gabrielle Giffords • Gun rights
soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. Pete

    I still don't get what all the hububs about in Mark Kelly supposidly buying guns.He's a NRA member and licenced gun owner and he's buying guns to see just how lienient the law really is,so what..I myself believe in a more strengent background check and include psychological testing as well but then you risk losing many a police officer because they wouldn't pass as well and posters here know it..I myself a concealed weapon,licenced gun owner do think its too easy and if you apply more pressure in the purchasing process most people buying because they're mad or something else to make them purchase a gun will turn away simply because they don't want to know the fact most of them would be turned down if new laws were inacted anyway..And remember too much about this is nothing but publicity anyway for Kellys crusade in his fight to do just that make more strengent laws so people like his wife Gabby aren't gunned down in the prime of life by someone not responsible enough to have a gun..And remember he was giving the purchases back to the police anyway wasn't he so what's the big deal !!

    March 12, 2013 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    USVET wrote:

    Very good point Dave. By stating that he planned to turn it over to the police, he is in fact making a straw buy, and has made that purchase a matter of public record. I love it when the zealots break the laws they want enforced because it reduces their credibility.
    There are some major holes in the argument put forth by Dave and many others. They argue that Mr. Kelly broke the law because he violated his sworn and signed statement that the purchase was exclusively "for his personal use." There is a loophole in the law that actually allows for a person to later sell the weapon, or otherwise relinquish ownership in some other fashion. Without the loophole, the original purchaser would probably be wearing the weapon in his casket.

    March 12, 2013 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  3. Edmund

    Does Mark Kelly also has a bridge to sell?

    March 12, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  4. v_mag

    In Jan. 2003, David Michael Keene, son of the president of the NRA, went to jail for 10 years for firing a weapon at a driver on the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia. I'll bet you he passed a background check, such as it is.

    Mark Kelley's point is that it is simple to buy a high powered weapon. It should be more difficult. It should be at least as difficult as getting a driver's license. A normal, non-paranoid person should be able to see that. Instead, those NRA-types go out and buy more guns and ammo. Those people are insecure, paranoid, and scared silly cowards.

    Be a man, not a coward. Don't hide behind your guns.

    March 12, 2013 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  5. jrgprogress

    Let see here, according to your background check, you are a former astronaut and the husband of a former congress woman and you've never been convicted of a crime. Yeah, here ya go!

    March 12, 2013 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  6. Tom

    He was buying the AR-15 for himself. He got caught and he's come up with this BS story about giving it to the police. Meanwhile, the Obamabots are trying to defend him.

    March 12, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  7. Jeff

    an AR-15 is not an assault weapon. Just because it looks like a military weapon does not mean it is any more or less deadly than a semi automatic 30.06 hunting rifle that is brown and wood...An assault weapon should be defined as fully automatic, and its tough to get them...

    March 12, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  8. v_mag

    People who stockpile guns are cowards, pure and simple. Owning a lot of gun is not a measure of manliness. It is proof of paranoia.

    If you're addicted to murder weapons, consider this. If the government were going to confiscate your weapons, who would they send to do it? The answer is, the military. But all you murder weapon fans support the military! Do you really think American soldiers would obey orders to go into every home in America and remove the guns? Do you think they could accomplish this task in under 50 years? After all, there are over 300 million Americans.

    There is no possible way the government could take your guns, even if it wanted to. You are paranoid and looney to think it can. Get yourself some treatment, come back to the real world, and calm down before you bust a vessel.

    March 12, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  9. tv22

    Have to love his junior high school excuse – I wanted to see how hard or easy it was to buy it. I'm surprised he didn't say he was buying it for a friend.

    March 12, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  10. just

    I think Gus has a good idea "malpractice" insurance for gun owners, really take responsibility for the weapon. I know of a young man that a soon as the President was re-elected started buying as many high powered weapons and ammo as he could even asked my husband to purchase some for him, because in the young mans own words he " didn't want to seem paranoid", and this dude is armed to the teeth. I don't feel safe I have heard this guy talking and he is paranoid!

    March 12, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  11. MrZell

    A decorated and respected astronaut being able to legally purchase a semi-automatic rifle doesn't really prove anything in terms of "leniency" of gun laws.

    March 12, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  12. Adam Carolla

    I'm not sure what he's trying to prove. As others have said, he's a public figure, a former astronaut, and likely has no criminal record. He's buying the rifle through legal channels, not from a van on the street. Buying a firearm should be fairly simple for him, anyway, because he's the kind of person society can TRUST with said firearm. He also said he hadn't obtained it yet, meaning that there is a waiting period – EVEN FOR HIM.
    To those saying buying a firearm should at least be as difficult as a driver's license: You must show proof of identify, undergo a background check, and suffer a waiting period before you are able to purchase a firearm. You don't even have to do that for a driver's license. "But you have to pass a proficiency test for your driver's licence." Yes, you have to pass a much longer, harder, and more expensive proficiency test if you want to carry your gun outside your home legally. You can buy a car without a driver's license, but to drive it, you must have a license. Same thing. "But people can carry a gun without the license if they choose to do so illegally." Yes, true, just like people can choose to drive illegally without a license. Have you looked around LA lately? What percentage of driver's do you think have a legal driver's license? Think you can fix that problem? Good luck.

    March 12, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  13. Vickie

    Who cares!?! Part of the dog and pony show. Too bad Gabby isn't married to a man who just wants to take care of her instead of exploiting her situation to make a name for himself. Yes, he's a former astronaut but he's no Neil Armstrong and he was just a face in the crowd until this whole scherade.

    March 12, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  14. Butterboy

    Im going to buy some soda in New York to support the ban on soda.

    March 12, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  15. fakey outie

    oh what if... so what if they needed to boost domestic gun sales. what would do that? Threaten to ban them. Bingo. Then look like you lost the issue.... o well... then support it. buy those guns.
    Because conventional weaponry in mass production is history here, we still have to contribute when the hat of hats is passed.

    March 12, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  16. TSB8C

    Couple of points: (1) AR-15 was not used in the Newtown shooting. It was pulled from the locked trunk of the shooter's car, video shown live on TV. (2) The AR-15 is really not that powerful of a weapon. He said he originally went to purchase a .45 handgun (used in way more crimes). I don't use my AR even to deer hunt because the round is too weak. I use a .308 instead. (3) There is a minimum time period that you must own the weapon before you sell or give to another party to avoid being an illegal "straw" purchase. Buying an AR-15 and stating on the form that you will be the owner and then giving it to someone else (even the police) is illegal. (4) And what store has used AR-15's just lying on the shelf waiting to be purchased? There is a 12 month backlog on orders right now. And good luck finding ammo for it as well.

    March 12, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  17. Butterboy

    Way to contribute to the very industry that you seek to place restrictions on.

    March 12, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  18. Darkseider

    One it isn't an assault rifle. More false reporting from CNN.

    March 12, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  19. Adam Carolla

    Dear V_Mag,
    I understand your frustration at not being able to own a firearm yourself, and feeling inadequate to those who can. If we all had super powers like you, perhaps we wouldn't need firearms for self defense. We could simply strut out looking tough and manly and fight off a home invader with our MMA skills or a samurai sword. Unfortunately, many of us are simply not as tough or cool as you, or as physically able, and would only get ourselves and our families hurt by trying to be "manly". Sure, we could call the cops, and the cops could clean up the mess when they got around to our house. Have you read the average police response time lately? If you're going to criticize gun ownership for self defense, please do your research, and then offer up a sound alternative solution.

    March 12, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  20. Sharon Mahart

    I don't get it. If you've got a clean background, how long does Mr. Kelly think it should take for the check to be completed? Should there be drama and theatrics? What? It's yes or no, right? What else do we need?

    March 12, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  21. sandalista

    On the other hand, it's nice to have an AR 15 in case of an alien invasion or the government sending in the Drones to kill us all. Watch out evil government, my AR 15 will destroy your F35s, your Drones and stop nuclear weapons. And for the Martians, I have an advice: don't even try. That goes for pink unicorns, vile umpa lumpas and the group of armed burglers who enter my house all the time also.

    March 12, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  22. ellid

    Why are people calling this man a liar? Or saying that this is a liberal plot? Are Americans really *that* paranoid?

    March 12, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  23. flycatcher

    AR-15's are not assault weapons, this is an obvious ploy to misrepresent/mislead the unknowing public. In other words politics as usual. Lie, cheat steal to make any point you're trying to make. The facts are he knows the difference so he knows that he has not made any valid points, he just tried to infuriate uneducated people into believing he was able to purchase a true assault rifle, instead he purchased a look alike sport rifle. What a phony!!!!!

    March 12, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  24. Darkseider

    Seriously for a former military man this guy sure knows how to lie for the right amount of facetime and money. An AR-15 is as much an assault rifle as a pig wearing lipstick is a beauty queen. The progressives and fascists in this country along with their dog and pony show media will do and say whatever they can, read as LIE, to dismantle this once great republic.

    March 12, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  25. JFlowers

    All the hubbub is because Kelly had just finished testifying before Congress that no one should have an AR15, then went out and bought one. Oh, the whole "I did it to prove a point" story sounds good, but it did not come into existance until after it had been discovered and publiced that he had bought the rifle. So basically most of America now think he is full of HorsePoop.

    He passed a background check to buy the rifle, just like he would have if he had bought it over the internet or at a gun show. So actually buying it is really a non-event. Its his hypocricy and lies that make this story so laughable.

    I do love CNN and others calling the AR15 a "high powered rifle" when it is one of the least powerful rifles on the market, with only the .22LR being weaker. Grandpaw's 30-30 or 30-06 is a far more powerful rifle.

    March 12, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
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