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. Mark

    AR-15's are not assault weapons, it is a semi-autmatic rifle just like any other common hunting rifle sold today. The only thing these anti gun nuts are harping on is the looks of the gun. The same goes with the shotgun they are trying to ban. A shotgun with a pistol handle and rails for lights is nothing but a shotgun. It is sad whaen people that are clueless try to challenge thr rights of the knowing. Mind your own buisness. There is already a ban on assault weapons on the books. An assault weapon automatic and semi-automatic firing capability. You need a special license to own a fully automatic weapon. Wake up and smell the coffee. .

    March 12, 2013 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  2. candycoatedapple

    Typical "do as I say, not as I do."

    March 12, 2013 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  3. WHAT!?!?!

    The background check only took a matter of minutes because he does not have a criminal record. If there had been anything on his record, they would have put a 3 day hold to see what it was

    March 12, 2013 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  4. James

    So how was it that" One was used in the December massacre at a Connecticut elementary school." When the AR (Yes it was there) was found in the car. This was in the press a while ago. They didn't make a big deal of it but the AR-15 never went into the school.

    March 12, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  5. Tony in Maine

    @Ancient Texan – and that is the stuff yo pappy used to spread on the hayfield. The .223 and the.22 may have the same diamter but saying they are alike is like saying a Maserati and a Ford are both cars so 16 year olds should be given either or both as a birthday present. Make sure brain is in gear before putting fingers in motion.

    March 12, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  6. Johny

    The metal worshippers are out in full force

    March 12, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  7. Scott

    He was able to find one to buy? Every gun store I have been to in the last 3 months is sold out and not taking orders. No ammo, no guns, even parts for the gun are all sold out...

    March 12, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  8. Anonymous

    I believe the term is "Personal Defense Weapon"...

    Fully Automatic and Semi Automatic are not the same thing...but I can see how CNN has more to gain by twisting facts and stirring emotions.

    CNN is the new Fox News.

    Don Montalvo, TX

    March 12, 2013 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  9. Brian Porter

    I am a Democrat. But I do know this. If they take your gun they will take your FREEDOM.

    March 12, 2013 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  10. Sagebrush Shorty

    Is he going to turn in the .45 also? Or perhaps he can sell it to Schumer who already has a carry permit from New York.

    March 12, 2013 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  11. DB

    It isn't a matter of how long it takes to run a check, but what they are actually checking. Anyone can run a background check in a few minutes with the right information. Police do it everyday when they pull you over for a traffic violations, imagine what you can pull with a drivers license and social security number....

    The article seems to also gloss over the fact that he still doesn't have the rifle in his "possession". He didn't just walk in and walk out with an AR-15; he requested to purchase it and if that goes through he'll receive it later.

    March 12, 2013 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  12. fred astaire

    I watched his interview on CNN with Blitzer. he said it was easy to buy the AR 15. He bought a handgun also.
    Blitzer, as a good left leaning journalist never asked if he went through an FBI i.e. ATF&E background check in this easy purchase, which is the law.
    This is the type of treasonous like journalism that will someday relegate CNN to MSNBC size viewership.

    March 12, 2013 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  13. Thinking Woman

    So, after going on television to make certain the world new they are against assault weapons, Mark Kelly goes out and buys one? How about some mea culpas from the Kellys. What happened to his wife was horrendous, but it took place because of a mentally ill person who obtained a weapon. That they would go on every station that would have them, use their power and influence to discourage gun owernship, then turn around and buy guns themselves is the height of hypocrisy.

    March 12, 2013 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  14. Fact checker

    Ok, so a retired military officer ( navy o-6) AND decorated astronaut, with a security clearance AND having just passed a background check for a pistol passes a check for a rifle? This is news? Please! A law abiding citizen who has been trusted with national security secrets SHOULD be able to buy a gun with little hassle.

    March 12, 2013 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  15. John

    What does Kelly buying an assault rifle have to do with background checks? He is an astronaust for God's sake. He probably has a top level security clearance of some kind. There is no background check that would deny him a gun. So, of course it was easy for him to get one.

    March 12, 2013 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  16. scott

    This country has a mental health problem disguised as a gun problem, and a tyranny problem disguised as a security problem

    March 12, 2013 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  17. Tacpilot

    Mr. Kelly committed a felony because one of the questions on the background investigation forms asks if you are buying this for yourself. If he said yes, with the intention of turning it over to the police, then he lied and committed a felony.
    Think about it, he purchased the gun and purchased multiple magazines. To prove his point that you could buy the AR 15 with the background check, why the extra ammo clips? He could have bought the ammo clips without buy the gun….
    AND why did it take them so long to come up with a cover story?
    Kelly man-up and tell the truth……..

    March 12, 2013 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  18. Rudy NYC


    Rudy, just what "gun license" are you referring to? Illinois has the FOID (Firearm Owner's I.D.) card, issued by the state police, and it does not qualify as a proper form of ID except for buying a gun. You cannot enter a casino, buy beer, etc... using a FOID card. You can only buy firearms and ammo using said FOID card.
    I'm talking about states like Texas, which passed Voter ID laws that find gun "permits" [the one on the gun is called a licensse around here] acceptable but not your voter registration card because it has no photo.

    March 12, 2013 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  19. Matt

    I don't think the pro gun people understand Kelly's point. His point is that background checks are important and so incredibly easy that they don't infringe on anyone's rights.

    The political issue he's trying to address is that the NRA and others want to continue allowing people to buy guns without background checks at places like gun shows.

    March 12, 2013 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  20. Kevin Buckley

    He was buying it for himself, he only spun it into some crazy story about turning it in because he got caught and the story went viral. CNN of course is spinning it like good liberals into some sort of example to save face. He is a hypocrite who got caught and is trying to save face.

    March 12, 2013 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  21. Thinking Woman

    "In his is 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.", is he trying to use this as an excuse for buying the guns? Funny, he only admitted it after someone knew about it and was going to report it. I live in a town where firearm ownership is mandatory, and I'll tell you honestly that the crime rate is nearly zero, because criminals don't know who has weapons and who does not. More towns are leaning this way, putting ordinances on the books making ownership mandatory (they do have a conscientious objection clause, if you really don't want one). The bottom line, though, is that crime will drop to nil in these towns, because who in their right mind would try to break into someone's home, knowing there could be weapons in that house, or the one next door.

    March 12, 2013 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  22. Rudy NYC

    David ATL wrote:

    "Do you think the enforcement problem could have anything to do with the fact that ATF has had its' budget cut so severely during the Bush administration? Nah, couldn't be."

    No, I don't think it is due to a lack of funding.
    Furthermore, I would like to see an extremely aggressive enforcement of firearm laws at the local level by local law enforcement. In high crime areas like Chicago, why not use the stop and question (and frisk) tactic that New York City has been using? New York City has greatly reduced its crime rate. Chicago is out of control
    How can ATF *increase* its' volume of prosecutions when its' budget has been significantly *decreased*? Please, explain how is that possible.

    What would Chicago PD even be stopping and frisking people for? Huh? Chicago cannot implement a "stop and frisk" law similar to what they have in NYC because in Chicago it is now legal to carry a concealed handgun [thanks to NRA efforts] while doing so is still banned in NYC. So, I ask again. What would Chicago PD be stoppling people and looking for?

    March 12, 2013 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  23. Let it Be

    He got caught buying an AR-15 and says he did it to check the system....whatever. Point being is that he did go through a background check. He can stop crying at anytime.

    March 12, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  24. Nick

    This is a joke, right? He was subjected to a background check, which is done via computer so of course it only takes minutes. And if he had failed, guess what – he wouldn't receive the weapon. And this guy was an astronaut??? Certainly not a rocket scientist.

    March 12, 2013 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  25. Rudy NYC

    Lumpy wrote:

    Sooooo...he bought a rifle at a gun store, after passing the required background check, just like any NON-CRIMINAL is required to do by law. He proved nothing.
    The jury is still out as to whatever it is that you wrote has proven.

    Kelly dispelled the NRA argument that "law abiding citizens" would be "hurt" by having to submit to a background check. He also demonstrated how quick and easy the process is for "law abiding citizens".

    March 12, 2013 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
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