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. Jason B

    I find it funny that the gun proponents praise the AR-15's accuracy as making it a safe weapon. Um...I call bull. Just because a gun is accurate doesn't mean the person using it can hit the broad side of a barn.

    March 11, 2013 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  2. ilene m

    doesn't make any difference what he bought, just that he bought something. protect & arm yourselves, don't wait for them to protect you !

    March 11, 2013 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  3. Eric

    I'm glad he could afford to do that.

    March 11, 2013 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  4. Words

    An AR-15 is a very common tiny 22 rifle that is not scary. It is a squirrel gun. The only thing scary about guns is when you are in a no gun zone and you don't have a gun but someone else does and is shooting at you.

    March 11, 2013 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  5. DMG2FUN

    "what he says are unobtrusive background checks."
    So he is for background checks to vote on election days.

    March 11, 2013 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  6. Jon

    @yup – The widely spread misinformation that no AR – 15 was used at Sandy Hook is a propaganda lie. The Connecticut State Police have released the information now in specific, to debunk this lie being repeated by the right wing gun lobby.

    "The debate over gun control in our country has spawned many rumors in relation to the weapons used at Sandy Hook Elementary. Many blogs and other forums are reporting that the weapon removed from the shooter's vehicle was the AR-15 and this was not used in the shooting. On Friday, January 18th, the Connecticut State Police issued a press release (see text below) about this issue and confirmed the Bushmaster was found inside the school. I contacted the CT State Police for further clarification. Lt. Paul Vance told me the Bushmaster was, in fact, fired inside the school and used to kill all 26 people who died that day."

    March 11, 2013 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  7. sharoom

    From the posts, I don't see what's so hard to understand about this.

    Mark Kelly is a gun owner. He has been a gun owner for the majority of his life and he is an advocate of the second amendment. He is also an advocate of gun control. He wants Americans to have access to guns, but he does not want guns with high capacity magazines to be unregulated.

    While most liberals would like to see all guns removed, many of them also realize that Mark Kelly's position is the only possible middle ground with the gun culture we have today.

    March 11, 2013 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  8. Taxpaying Voter

    If he gives the gun to the Police Dept then he is guilty of a straw purchase and should be arrested and tossed in jail. The application question clearly asks, are you the purchaser of this firearm? So if he buys it and gives it to someone else, off to jail he goes.

    But more to the point, this is just another case of do as I say not as I do hypocrite who trots out his handicapped wife to advance the Dem agenda.

    March 11, 2013 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Sigh, I'm really tired of the word "assault weapon" being thrown around in the media. Really, really tired. It's not a bloody assault weapon. You can take a "hunting rifle" and kill just as many people. Before you argue that it's easier with an assault weapon to shoot faster, I know plenty of people who can manage a very high rate of fire with lever and bolt-actions. And guess what? The bullets from them are much more powerful than the dimuitive 2.23. Also, the term clip for firearms such as the AR-15 is incorrect. It's magazines. Furthermore, firearms like the AR-15 contribute to a very low number of firearm deaths per year, the vast majority being done by handguns. As for the whole "gun laws must be more enforced", I live in Chicago, with some very strict gun laws, and they haven't done Jack. As for enforcing them more, there's no way our crooked politcians would find the funding. You want to curb some of the violence in America? Work on the bloody education system, get more kids literate. Smarter kids means less dumb kids out killing each other.

    March 11, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  10. TheCSW

    What part of his background makes him dangerous and should therefore prevent him from owning a firearm? Why do you believe Mark is a danger to society when in possession of a .45 and AR-15?

    March 11, 2013 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  11. MixedSon

    With you all the way, good post. I live in Chicago, and our strict gun laws have done very little to curb violence.

    March 11, 2013 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  12. AJ

    "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."

    So... the system worked for you and that's wrong because it wasn't difficult like most gov't controlled items so you libs need to break it and hurt law abiding citizens.

    March 11, 2013 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  13. TPF

    How many people get killed in automobile crashes,motorcycle crashes,4 wheeler accidents. Thousands and thousands, most of the deaths are because of drunk drivers, inattentive drivers,speeding, wreck-lace operation. But we don't take drivers out of the killing machines, now do we. An automobile is more dangerous than the guns in America. You take your life in your hands every time you get in the car, whether driving or riding. This gun charade by Obama and Kelly is not going to accomplish one thing and might actually make things worse than they are now. Most of gun deaths in this country are caused by revolvers not these AR-15's and others like them.

    March 11, 2013 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  14. Silence Dogood

    Interesting, since NICS checks have been running 5 days or more recently, NOT instant.

    March 11, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  15. Herewe Goagain

    It was easy, Mr. Kelly, because you haven't committed a felony and aren't on the FBI's restricted list. And in that case, it OUGHT to be easy to obtain one.

    March 11, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  16. David Witcraft

    In the pacific northwest, assault rifles have been sold out since X-mas. I went to the two biggest sportsmans stores and the gun sections looked like the last days of a going -out-of-business sale. An entire 50 foot aisle that used to have magazines was picked bare. The ammunition aisle looked like a grocery store after a hurricane. When Obama said he would create jobs, he wasn't kidding! I just wish someone around here was building ARs, maybe I could get a job and afford one!

    March 11, 2013 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  17. Daily Llama

    Current BATFE background checks are only as effective as the Federal database. The bigger problem is "straw buyers" – which no respectable firearm owner would ever do.

    March 11, 2013 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  18. andi lee

    Until mental health issues are addressed, along with easy access to proper care for ALL Americans, laws will do no good for anyone. BTW, automobile accidents is the leading cause of deaths, not guns.

    March 11, 2013 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  19. Inciteful

    Opponents and proponents, alike, seem to want to make this an all-or-nothing issue, when, in fact, there is a middle ground.

    March 11, 2013 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  20. Jimbo

    You mean a decorated naval officer and astronaut without a criminal record was able to pass a background check? Uh, isn't that how it's supposed to work?

    March 11, 2013 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  21. Tamekia

    What was his point? Buy an ar, turn it in to the police to prove what, that background checks don't work? He did take a background check for this ar right? So what was the point?

    And didn't his wife get shot up by handguns?

    March 11, 2013 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  22. Ed

    Here is a guy (Mark Kelly) spouting off about guns and gun laws as if he is an expert, then he goes and calls an AR-15 an assault rifle? It is obvious that he doesn't know much about guns and probably very little about our existing laws.
    Maybe he should shut his mouth and go and learn something about guns, and our existing firearm laws.
    If he understood the magnitude and complexity of our existing firearm laws he would find we already have too many laws. Among these laws he would find it is a criminal offence for a private party to sell or make available in any way a firearm to a "prohibitive person" just as it is for a licensed firearm dealer. If you want to do some good Mark why don't you learn about them?

    March 11, 2013 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  23. Red

    People are so crazy about their guns and an archaic piece of legislation. I say no guns and no bullets should be legal

    March 11, 2013 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  24. Viln

    Your 15 mins of fame has been up a long time ago. This guy can not make up his mind, didn't I hear a while back that he has a firearms? And now he wants to be the face of anti-gun nutjobs.

    March 11, 2013 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  25. Nevis Mn

    Gun manufacturers are getting their money's worth from the NRA. Guns and ammunition supplies are in short supply because the NRA has told everyone that the boogieman is coming. It's the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the American public. And why we put up with it is embarrassing.

    March 11, 2013 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
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