March 11th, 2013
03:22 PM ET
2 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. Brian P

    I bought a pistol at a gun show, and had to fill out a form for a background check. There was a 72 hour hold to pick it up. I went back later that day and bought a shotgun, which had a 24 hour hold. Because I had already filled out the form with a different dealer, they just had to add the shotgun to the same form. I didn't have to do two background checks. Kelly, did the exact same thing. There is no special background check for different firearms. The same background check allows you to purchase any legal firearm you want to buy.

    March 12, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  2. John

    Historians will have no problem pinpointing the time when American citizens were disarmed and those in control of the American "government" purchased billions of rounds of ammunition, thousands of armored transports for domestic use, and tens of thousands of drones. Germany, 1933. They had a "Homeland Security" too. This is it people. Do not be deceived.

    March 12, 2013 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  3. ksingleton101

    If he breaks the law either buying or selling it illegally I want him arrested and charge appropriately!

    March 12, 2013 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  4. Paul Haberman

    what a misleading headline: He purchased the weapon to prove the point that anyone can buy one of these killing machines. Your article and headline gave the intentional false impression that Mark Kelly was "caught" preaching one thing and doing another. What blatant, twisted and biased journalism. Its the reason why CNN is losing its audience and can't find its voice.

    March 12, 2013 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  5. Joel

    The guuuuunz need to be banned completely from American society. After all they are the only thing a private citizen could own that could threaten a drone in the air.

    March 12, 2013 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  6. NE_Wombat

    It's STUNNING that the right wing, knee-jerk jerks are incapable of actually reading and understanding the article.

    He bought the gun(s) as a demonstration of how lax the laws are.

    March 12, 2013 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  7. ksingleton101

    Just change the name of it, Call it what it is a modified hunting rifle! Nothing more. This idea of playing stupid and thinking we are going to go along with it just shows how stupid this whole thing really is. I too would like to know what he is going to do with the .45? If he is doing this to show how easy it is to buy a gun then why doesn't he make it harder by using someone else’s name or SSN/Drivers License? How about if he goes out and gets a warrant for his arrest or a felony on his record before he tries to purchase a gun? There are lots of ways to check the system and being legally able to purchase a gun of any kind is not it. What a moron! What was his purpose in space?

    March 12, 2013 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  8. igsource

    And what does he think this proves? Nothing. It only takes "a matter of minutes" to approve the purchase because there are such things as computers, not because the system doesn't work!

    March 12, 2013 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  9. Rich

    I'm sick of this guy using his "astronaut" status as his clout for nowledge on the military grade M4 5.56 select fire weapon. Show me one ribbon he has earned with him qualifying with this weapon. JUST ONE! The closest he has ever come to firing a military weapon for qualification would be the M9 9mm semiautomatic pistol. As an astronaut I don't expect that he would ever use that weapon in space or on the shuttle. He's an eletist officer hack who thinks his position warrants that people accept him as an expert. He has more expertise picking up dog crap on his nightly walks around the neighborhood.
    Also who would purchase an AR15 .223 cal semiautomatic rifle in a state which requires no waiting period on rifles for close to $1000-2000 just so he could experience the process and then give the gun to the police? I believe that's against the law by the way. The federal form you fill out specifically asks are you going to be the sole owner of the weapon and do you plan on transfering ownership to another person. He appearantly lied on this federal form and may have committed a federal offense. I hope he enjoys that experience.
    Finally, his wife was shot in the head with a hand gun. So this jerk goes into a gun store and buys a hand gun and a rifle but plans on turning in the rifle because it is dangerous and only belongs in the hands of the military? Smells an aweful lot like he's been picking up more than dog crap on his walks.

    March 12, 2013 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  10. Tanya Rodriguez

    I have not heard anything yet from the anti-gun sheep about what they plan to do about CRIMINALS killing people. All I've heard from them so far is a bunch of talk about MY guns. Since you think guns are so scary and icky then don't own one!! Quit obsessing over mine! They are here to STAY.

    March 12, 2013 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  11. James OD

    Mark Kelly is LYING THROUGH HIS TEETH and got caught. End of story.

    Let's see... He's famous, has a top secret security clearance, is married to a former member of Congress and thinks that his ease in passing a NICS check is something amazing?

    And then he expects us to believe that - after passing the "instant check" which "only took minutes" - he "still hasn't obtained" his AR15. I've bought guns in Arizona and if one has passed the background check then one takes their gun home with them that day.

    So which is it, Mark Kelly? Did your background check take "only minutes" and you walked out the door with your new AR15? Or is your background check still in process? Or are you just hoping that the public will forget about your new AR15 so you can take it home without looking like the braying hypocrite that you are?

    March 12, 2013 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  12. Smeagel4T

    Amazing how many people commenting who didn't bother to read the article. "It's okay for him to own an AR15, but not everyone else". Umm... hello? You only have to make it to the second paragraph to find out he's not keeping it.

    Households with guns continues to go down, but yet number of guns purchased goes up. Exactly how many guns does a decreasing number of households need to protect themselves? Are gun nuts taking to duct taping the guns together like Weaver did in Aliens 2? "Hey, if one AR15 is good for protecting my home, six duct-taped together must be 6 times as good!"

    March 12, 2013 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  13. AstroD

    A-Rod, did you even read the article? Mark Kelly wanted to demonstrate how easy it is to purchase an assault weapon, he does not want to keep it. Geesh.

    March 12, 2013 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  14. PainefulSense

    So ... a man with no criminal record, of ostensibly sound mind, legally purchases a gun in a gun shop after a background check is performed ... I guess that proves the current laws work!

    Now, if his intent was to give the gun to someone else, he should be tried and found guilty of the existing "straw purchaser" laws. Assuming that happens (yeah, right), he should THEN go back to that gun store and see if the existing laws now PREVENT him (now a felon) from purchasing another gun.

    That might actually prove something. What's likely to be proven, of course, is that the existing laws WILL NOT BE enforced.

    March 12, 2013 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  15. Betsy

    I really believe that people in this country should be afraid of the paranoid idiots and sicko's walking around . You know, the ones who are always afraid of losing their rights and so they keep buying guns. It might help their train of thought if they at least learned to read. An example would be the response of " A-Rod " to this article. He missed the part about this man buying the guns to prove a point about how easy it is to purchase one, and also the fact that he is donating, at least the rifle, to the police department.

    March 12, 2013 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  16. Jack

    Of course its was quick and easy for him to buy it! If you have a clean record the Insta-check system that is used for background checks is very quick. It doesn't take long to do and if you're a criminal you will get flagged just as quick. All he proved is that if you are legally able to buy a weapon, you can buy it from a licensed gun dealer just like every law abiding American.

    March 12, 2013 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  17. Tychi

    "failed to reach a compromise that would address the "gun show loophole" Honestly! How hard can it be to close this loophole?! Do we really care about our children or not? Take responsibility.

    March 12, 2013 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  18. EyesWideOpen

    So a NASA astronaut with a government security clearance had a quick background check...go figure

    March 12, 2013 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
  19. GBM

    Pete, what is he proving? He has a clean background so of course he will pass. If he were a felon and passed then I would be impressed.

    The system DOES need to be improved to include known dangerous people like an ex neighbor of mine who constantly threatened to shoot people (ex cop, by the way).

    March 12, 2013 02:13 am at 2:13 am |
  20. Bobwhite

    If Mark Kelly is stupid enough to believe that we're going to believe that prior to being caught on video buying it, he was going to turn in his newly purchased AR-15 to the Tucson PD; then I can't help but believe he's likely too stupid to fly a spacecraft...

    March 12, 2013 02:20 am at 2:20 am |
  21. mountainlady

    Alas, I think Mr. Kelly wasted his money and wasted his breath. Nothing significant is going to come of the current gun control measures in Congress. Those 20 murdered children are going to be relegated to a statistic and the gun lobby and gun groupies will win again. As long as special interest groups like the NRA are allowed to run Congress, the majority of Americans who support some sane gun regulation will have no representation. Members of Congress are either paid for by the NRA or scared to death of them and so the insanity goes on. I keep trying to believe that there are rational and responsible gun owners out there and then I read these blog comments. Judging by the posts by 2nd Amendment worshipers, these people should not be allowed to own a slingshot let alone a semi-automatic weapon. Buy Kevlar America.... it's our only chance.

    March 12, 2013 02:23 am at 2:23 am |
  22. James Ruston

    "...proponents say its (AK-47) accuracy makes it safe." These people are truly delusional.

    March 12, 2013 02:26 am at 2:26 am |
  23. North Dallas Don

    Men who love guns lack testosterone. The guns make up for their deficiencies in their manhood.

    March 12, 2013 02:30 am at 2:30 am |
  24. NorCalMojo

    What does he think is going to happen in a waiting period? The red flags are either in the database or they aren't. Are they expecting them the FBI to investigate every application.

    March 12, 2013 02:38 am at 2:38 am |
  25. Sandi

    What's so strange about a gun owner and control advocate experiencing for himself the ease with which he can buy a gun with a background check? This is not "is like a vegetarian ordering dozen chesburgers to make point". He's not asking for the end to gun sales.

    Jeez, don't some of you people even READ the articles you comment on?

    March 12, 2013 02:51 am at 2:51 am |
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