March 11th, 2013
03:22 PM ET
1 year 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. Suenodak

    The nerve of this guy. What a liar. He got busted and now tries to cover up..BTW, if he was buying it for someone else (aka the police) then it's illegal. Known as a straw purchase. My understanding he also bought a horrible high capacity magazine.. Oh horrors!

    March 11, 2013 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  2. Kevin

    So basically he is saying he bought 2 guns under faults pretenses which make him what? A LIAR and criminal. Arrest him.

    March 11, 2013 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  3. Bob

    Absolutely amazing, that CNN would ignore the big part of the story. Then again, maybe not. CNN often does.

    He bought both guns on March 5 - that's last Tuesday. Only after word got out and his office was contacted for a comment did he suddenly post a picture of him buying the gun on his Facebook page and say he bought it to demonstrate how easy it is.

    I don't say this lightly, I appreciate his and Congresswoman Giffords' service even if I don't agree with them on everything, but the facts indicate he is flat out lying.

    First, why would he buy an assault rifle to show how easy it is? He had a background check and bought the gun. Everyone knows you can do that. He didn't buy it at a gun show, or over the Internet, he went to a gun store, had the background check and bought it. Guaranteed he dropped $1500 plus, for what? To prove the very thing no one, no one, disputes? That doesn't make sense.

    Second, and more importantly, why only announce it after he was outed?

    No, the facts strongly indicate this guy bought the guns for himself and his family. The very thing he doesn't want others to be able to do. Then, when he was outed, he came up with the only story he could.

    I don't fault him for buying the gun. (I would be curiouos to know if the pistol, which has not said he bought as test) holds more than 10 rounds.) I fault his hypocrasy.

    And I fault CNN's hypocrasy and pandering. A legitimate news organization would have reported this. And they would ask questions about it. CNN doesn't even report the parts of the story that don't fit its agenda. And they say Fox is biased. Pffft.

    March 11, 2013 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  4. rocket

    I am truly sorry that his wife was shot by a crazzy person . That being said it is not the gun it is the person . if they ban the gun . the person will find another way to hurt people . you are not even trying to fix the problem . you just want every one to live the way you want them to live . Tell them what color to paint thier house and how to rais thier kids and so on . keep your nose out of every ones business and worry about how you live your own life .

    March 11, 2013 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  5. LudwigVanB

    @Ancient Texan, an AR15 isn't remotely like a rim fire .22 semi-automatic. It fires .223 ammunition, which is packed with far more powder than a tin can plinker. The .223 is part of a weapon-of-war system, and the only difference between an AR15 and a military M16 is that you can't fire it in 3-shot bursts or fully automatic. Also, it's tricked out to look like an M16, which means it's impossible to tell the difference between the two at a glance - say by police responding to a report of a shooting. Moreover, the AR15 can be modified easily to fire fully automatically using hardly more than a special grip for the left hand. The damned thing should be banned, since it serves no purpose outside of a war zone. Take it from me, a former NRA certified instructor. (I left the NRA when it went postal.)

    March 11, 2013 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  6. ben joseph

    Mark Kelly is lying. He has a clean record and had just had his credentials run. It only makes sense that another check would go through quickly. Something tells me that he got caught up by the media and used this as an excuse.

    March 11, 2013 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  7. Vicarious

    So ... what's the news here? That an American hero passed a background check to buy a legal firearm?

    I'm not buying the logic "I needed to know how it works." ... so, god forbid you support legislation for more stringent punishments for pedophilia.

    March 11, 2013 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  8. horf

    There has to be some middle ground. Here's my solution, which no one will like because it's a compromise. You can buy any gun you want, but there will be a tiered licensing system. Level 1 get you a bolt action rifle or a shotgun. Level 2 get you a handgun. Level 3 gets you assault guns (M4, MP5, etc) and level 4 gets you machine guns. Each level would require a more comprehensive background/mental health check. There might be little tweaks about what level gets you which gun, but it's a starting point.

    I don't know how you draw the lines for each level. That would be a bit tricky to figure out, but if you are a law abiding citizen and are mentally stable, then you can get which ever guns you want. If you have issues then you can't.

    Isn't that what we are all after?

    March 11, 2013 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  9. brsinai

    Something just does't sound right.

    March 11, 2013 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  10. Bob

    A minor edit to my previous post. Although CNN did not mention the controversy at all in its posted article, it did in the video. Even then, though, only briefly and without any serious questioning at all. What did you pay for the AR15? Why would you spend that much money to prove something (that AR15s are easy to buy if you are willing to undergo a background check) that is not really contested? And since you did get a background check in connection with this purchase (per Facebook page), how does this purchase help prove there should be background checks?

    How many high capacity magazines did you buy for it? Why haven't you picked it up? If it is being cleaned or repaired, how does that tie in with your statement that you are going to turn it over to the PD? Why clean/repair just to turn it in? You say (in the video) this was your plan going into the store, but on your Facebook page you say you were buying a pistol and saw the AR15 there, as if it were an afterthought. Which was it? What kind of pistol did you buy? How many rounds will it hold in its magazine? More than 10?

    CNN doesn't want to ask these questions because the answers don't support CNN's position in this fight. They've stopped being a news organization and have become simply a propaganda machine.

    March 11, 2013 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  11. John

    Make your point by overspending for a gun you can legally own. A better point would be to volunteer at a homeless shelter or donate the same money to a charity. Way to blow your money for a dead point when there are bigger issues.

    March 12, 2013 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  12. GerryK

    Seems odd to me that all of this hype about the AR15 being blamed for the Newtown incident when it wasn't used. It was in the car in the parking lot. CNN reported: "Three weapons were recovered from the school on Friday: a semi-automatic .223 caliber rifle made by Bushmaster found in a car in the school parking lot, and two pistols made by Glock and a Sig Sauer found with suspected gunman Adam Lanza's body, a law enforcement source said previously." So once again the the political "machine" is trying to push their agenda using false statements.

    Nothing new there.

    March 12, 2013 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  13. Matt from CT

    Oh look, another anti-gun hypocrite.

    March 12, 2013 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  14. w5cdt

    I think he should keep the AR15 to protect himself against the NRA doomsday nut cases.

    March 12, 2013 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  15. SUAMW

    Background checks should be effective (and quick) NOT obtrusive.

    This article smack of editorializing and not reporting. Never mind that there are glaring fact checking failures on the part of CNN – as other commenters have already pointed out.

    March 12, 2013 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  16. rad666

    6 Teens dead:
    "About a quarter of 15- to 24-year-olds who died in 2010 were killed in motor vehicle accidents, according to the most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The motor vehicle deaths significantly outpaced the other top culprits: firearm wounds, homicides, suicides and accidental poisonings."

    Proof that autos need to be banned.

    March 12, 2013 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  17. rle

    He only claimed this was a test AFTER he got caught buying the gun... surrreee I believe him...

    March 12, 2013 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  18. jaketinback

    Another nice photo opp for the Giffords. Where were they when Columbine took place or the shooting in Aurora. Why didnt they feign outrage then. Only when it affected them personally did they decide to jump on the bandwagon. Apparently the ohter mass shootings were not important enough but now, all of a sudden "we need to do something."

    March 12, 2013 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  19. 2ndAmdProgressive

    Mike – thanks for confirming what I was thinking. AZ does not have a waiting period. When you pass the background check, you pay for the firearm and take it home. Kinda curious why he hasn't gotten it yet.

    Ancient Texan – While I despise the idea of an AWB and think capacity limitations are just ridiculous, you have to be kidding me when you compare a .22 rifle to a .223 AR-15. That argument makes you sound as bad as the gun control lobbyists.

    Do you seriously think a .22lr with a 40grains (bullet weight), ~1300ft/s velocity (bullet speed) and ~135ft:lbf (energy), with MAYBE 1-2grains of powder (weight of explosive material) is remotely close to a .223 (yes, diameters are almost the same), 55grain (bullet weight), 3200ft/s (bullet speed), 1282ft:lb (energy), with ~24-25grains of powder (weight of explosive material)?

    P.S. Ballistics descriptions are not meant to be condescending towards you, I would guess you know about them already. They are intended as information for those that do not own firearms and/or those not familiar with ballistics. Ballistics data are rough estimates from reloading info (.223) and Wikipedia (.22lr), bullet weights, power weight, and powder type can effect speed and energy.

    March 12, 2013 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  20. CaliforniaAC

    Are your people dunce? The guy bought the stuff to prove how easy it is to buy the weapons NOT TO USE THEM, NOT TO OWN THEM– just to prove a point that background checks are a FARCE.

    March 12, 2013 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  21. Awsome

    Thats awsome. Next he should go buy some meth to show how easy that is.

    March 12, 2013 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  22. BanGuns2013

    Why are we wasting our time with background checks when we should be trying to figure out a way to redefine the 2nd amendment to keep all firearms out of civilian hands.

    March 12, 2013 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  23. Rogue351

    Yep and if he puts it under his bed or in his closet, fully loaded then he is exactly like the rest of the so called "responsible" gun owners in America. How did all of these gun get on the streets in the first place ? They have been stolen by criminals from "responsible" gun owners. If you are truly "responsible" then secure your weapon. The problem is not the gun but the people who own them and buy then legally and then mistreat them as if they are a toy because they do not use them every day. If you are going to own a gun, be responsible and secure your weapon. If you are in the military and you wake up and your weapon is gone are you not held accountable ? Here is a New flash, crime is not going away anytime soon and more guns than ever before will be stolen because every single Anti Obama, Anti Democrat is going out and going to buy one, just because they can. Well if you are old enough to drive, drink and have children then you should be old enough to buy a gun. However, as with driving , drinking, and children come responsibility. Criminals will always steal guns, gun fanatics will always own guns. We lock up the criminals if we catch them but what reponsobility do we place on the legal purchase of a gun owner that did not sercured their weapon and it is stolen, NONE. That is the problem. That is the problem and NO one is talking about that. MAKE RESPONSIBLE GUN OWNERS RESPONSIBLE. Secure your guns !!! Pro gun people are 100% correct, a gun is not going to fire on it;s own. It is also not going to walk off the self into your closet where a criminal may fine it and use it against another innocent person.

    March 12, 2013 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  24. Lagos

    Oh, for the love of god. Just pass a law saying that scary looking guns are illegal and be done with it. Pretty sure gun owners would be fine putting hello kitty stickers on their guns just to have this bull dung over and done with.

    March 12, 2013 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  25. Dr. B

    I like that a retired Navy Officer, Law-abiding citizen, and likely otherwise sane individual can pass a background check. Why does he not have the weapon? I suppose the store must hold onto it for a few days, incase he was homicidal at the time he bought it. Another reasonable fact for buying guns. I suppose he had enough cash or enough credit to make the purchase. I am not sure why this is news. Shame on CNN for publishing something as mundane as this story. It would have been a better use of his money to make a meaningful contribution to a charity of his choice, or take the cash downtown to the homless shelter and blessed the lives of a bunch of people who are down on their luck.

    March 12, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
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