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. Bill D.

    All Mark would have to do is grab some ammo, and hit the range with that AR15 and he would have a blast and fall in love with it. He claims he's going to trun it in, but if he shot it a few times I bet he'd decide to keeep it.

    March 12, 2013 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Bob ( and so many others ) wrote:

    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.
    -------------------–
    It's so simple and obvious that even a 5th grader could understand it.
    Mr. Kelly demonstrated that "law abiding citizens" are not "hurt" by sensible gun control legislation. Most of the arguments against Mr. Kelly actually support the fact that his civil right was not "infringed".

    March 12, 2013 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  3. julie

    wish I could afford an assult rifle or what ever they are called.......wanted hubby to buy me a 38...they cost way to much $400 for such a small hand gun outragous......I just hate being left out everyone I know (men) has weapons and many................just hate feeling left out ya know

    March 12, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  4. Statik

    yeah, if there's nothing wrong with your file, a firearms check takes only a minute or so...
    and the point is?

    How long does it take a computer to pull a record from a database? No time at all. Did he document the fact that the store recorded his information, verified his ID did the background check and REGISTERED the serial number of his new weapon? Half the point of the current system WAS to make if fast, but secure. Instant checks... not come back in a few days when we get faxed the information from the clerk who had to see if you had a file etc.

    Welcome to the information age.

    March 12, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Dr. B wrote:

    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.
    ---------------
    You should hear the versions of the story circulating around the right wing media. This story appears to attempt to set the record straight. Mr. Kelly is not surrendering the weapon because he committed a crime, nor any of the other conspiracy theories resonating in the right wing vacuum.

    March 12, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  6. Dave

    Let me get this straight: He purchased the weapon with absolutely no intent of keeping it? His plan all along was to turn it over to someone else. If so, congratulations for committing a felony under federal law, Mr. Crusader., by lying on question #1 of ATF form 4473.

    March 12, 2013 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  7. Stan in NH

    ""scary to think of people buying guns like these without a background check at a gun show or the Internet. This is not entirely true. You can buy a gun at a gun show without a background check IF you buy from an individual rather than a dealer. Dealers still do background checks at gun shows. An individual CAN NOT LEGALLY BUY A GUN ON THE INTERNET. This has been stated many times, but it is not true at all. All mail order sales MUST go through licensed dealers. The only exception to this is on antique guns made before 1899. Has it been done? Yes, but it is an illegal sale under current Federal law and one which should be stopped. It would be easy to track such illegal sales now, but that's not being done.

    March 12, 2013 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  8. BoThome

    @Marie MD. Wow, you are so full of misinformation! According to law enforcement, 75% of all gun violence is directly related to gang activities. NOT "FAMILY RELATED". In 2011, the FBI numbers say that 323 people we murders by rifles (that's all rifles, which includes AR style rifles). The majority of gun murders were done with low-capacity handguns. The total number of gun related murders in the US was ~8,600 in 2011, 6220 from hand guns. So, take away 75% of all those not gang related, and you get a better understanding of the "real gun violence" that potentially happens in a typical US home.

    Oh and only 650 accidental deaths by firearms in 2011, out of 300,000,000+ guns and 50,000,000+ gun owners. FYI – the 19,000 suicides by gun ARE NOT gun violence. These same people have or would tried other methods of suicide, and were intent on dying regardless of the tool used. For example, Mindy McCready (former country star) tried to kill herself multiple times (slit wrists, drug OD) before finally taking her boyfriend's idea of suicide by gun to end her life.

    March 12, 2013 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  9. Dave

    Few things I would say

    1. If he bought it as a publicity stunt which is what he is trying to say, it would have been publicized in advanced so I DO NOT believe that is why he bought it. He bought it because he wanted one and only came up with this story when it leaked out.

    2. Background checks are supposed to be quick and easy for the person applying. They are not supposed to be intrusive. The quality of information could be improved but it should still be an instant result of Yes, No, or Delay. With todays technology they should be efficient and fast.

    3. This is just another example of liberal hypocrisy. You should all realize if any ban is successfully passed Government officials will be exempt. In other words they can still purchase any banned weapons and just like during the last ban they will purchase them and pass them on to donors. If we did that it would be a straw purchase.

    Bottom line here is the liberals think they know better. They live in a protective bubble that the rest of us do not benefit from. As a gun owner who loves going to the range to practice, I hope I never have to shoot anyone. But it is my right to defend my family and myself.

    If you want to reduce crime its pretty easy. Stop letting career criminals back out on the streets. Let the non violent pot smoking drug offenders out and keep the violent people locked up for good.

    March 12, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  10. Dark Space

    He is an astronaut with no known criminal or mental history – the background check *should* be easy. Plus, if he has taken the class and gotten his carry permit he likely walked out of the store that day. He still filled out a form requiring an FBI background check, they called the FBI while he waited, and they recorded the serial numbers of the two guns. Depending on state law he may have had to come back a few days later to get his guns.

    The only problem I see here is the reporting: "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." The AR15 is a LESS powerful rifle then every common deer rifle – it just is. You can hunt deer with it, you can hunt deer with 22LRs too, but the vast majority of people use much more powerful and larger rounds because they want to kill the deer with a high degree of certainty. Secondly, I've never heard ANYONE, until now, argue the AR15 is SAFER because it is more ACCURATE – it is more LETHAL because it is easier to handle, accurate, and with even modest training can be an extremely safe tool to keep in your arsenal. It's used to kill, either people or targets, and unfortunately that is what all guns are made for and even more unfortunately we need them to level the playing field with the bad guys,whether they be individuals or governments.

    March 12, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  11. jmace57

    I call BS. He was not making a statement. He got caught buying an AR-15, and then made up a story about how he was showing how easy it was to buy...and he would donate it to the police. Hypocrite.

    March 12, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  12. USVET

    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.

    March 12, 2013 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  13. Skeptical

    I'd like to think he spent his own money on this straw purchase, but the funds likely came from his tax exempt foundation.....

    March 12, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  14. Rudy NYC

    Dave

    Let me get this straight: He purchased the weapon with absolutely no intent of keeping it? His plan all along was to turn it over to someone else. If so, congratulations for committing a felony under federal law, Mr. Crusader., by lying on question #1 of ATF form 4473.
    -----------------
    What Mr. Kelly did with the AR-15 was not illegal. Under Arizona law a person must sign an affadavit attesting to the fact that the purchase is "for their personal use." Mr. Kelly probably did that. Unfortunately, the Arizona law has a loophole that does not prevent someone from "changing his/her mind" after the purchase. He could literally walk out of the Arizona gun store with his new weapon and lawfully sell it to someone waiting in the parking lot.

    March 12, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  15. Bill in VA

    And for the 100th time. An AR-15 IS NOT AN ASSAULT RIFLE, PLEASE STOP CALLING IT THAT. It does NOT have selective fire allowing you to select from semi auto, burst fire or fully automatic. It does not have that feature, so it does not get to be labeled as an assault rifle.

    March 12, 2013 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  16. Gus

    Simple idea: since everybody is buying these guns because they think they will be banned and the government will never be able to take them back, why don't they just have gun insurance the same way we have car insurance. The more dangerous the gun, the more the insurance is. The money would go to protect schools, etc. That way if people think they need one of these weapons (just as they think they need a Corvette), they can pay extra insurance for it.

    March 12, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  17. Matt from CT

    "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. "
    _______________________________________________________________________________________________________

    YOU STILL NEED A BACKGROUND CHECK!!!!!!
    If you buy a firearm on the internet, it gets shipped to an FFL in your area where the background check can be run. If you buy a gun at a gunshow, they do the background check there. The only time no background check is run is between private sellers, and even that depends on what state you are in.

    March 12, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  18. tv

    I wish I had that kind of money to blow just to prove a point.

    March 12, 2013 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  19. pbtad

    Maybe he should have tried to buy the gun at a gun show or over the Internet. Then he woukd have discovered that he still needed to get a background check.

    That woulkd have shown that there is no loophole and a new law isn't needed. That would have been newsworthy.

    March 12, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  20. R

    Hmm – the last handgun I purchased (2005) required me to wait 2 or 3 days while the background check was completed. And he got his in a few minutes?? Why didn't he have to wait like I did? Special treatment? For Democrats only?

    March 12, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  21. NameRonnie

    An ex-military man, ex-astronaut, ex-shuttle commander passing a back ground check at a law enforcement supply store, imagine that! Something just doesnt seem right. Has to be more to this story

    March 12, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  22. Tony

    I don't understand the argument that "he's showing how background checks are unobtrusive."

    These background checks remain unchanged from before the shooting. There are no new laws in place. No one thinks the current system is obtrusive. His argument is invalid.

    Why would he bother this exercise? He's a damn shuttle commander who's wife was a member of congress. Of course he'd pass a background check with ease.

    March 12, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  23. Awsome

    Totally Awesome way to make a statement. Next maybe he should go buy some Cocaine to show how easy that is too.

    March 12, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  24. john

    so he got a gun legally what the hell is his point that hes a idiot that can waste money on a gun and then turn it in . this is a stupid article .

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

    i find it very hard to believe that there just happened to be a used ar-15 sitting on the shelf. you can't find one anywhere, and there's a 18-24 month wait for a new one from the production line. sounds like liberal propaganda to me...!

    March 12, 2013 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
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