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As the first anniversary of the Newtown school shooting approaches, we check in with former astronaut Mark Kelly, whose wife, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was almost killed in a mass shooting nearly three years ago in Tucson, Arizona.
Kelly and Giffords lobby for reduced gun violence and responsible gun ownership through their non-profit Americans for Responsible Solutions. They join some Newtown families in setting aside a push for tougher gun buyer background checks, because it failed in Congress this year, along with a ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and large ammunition clips.
Kelly is now pushing for better mental health programs and more reporting of the mentally ill to the federal background check system. He tells Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson that his group is raising money to “bring some balance” to debate over gun control.
On the lack of action on gun control
“We’re coming up on a year since we had 20 first graders and six educators murdered in their classrooms, and, you know, the response at the national level from Congress, so far, has been to do pretty much nothing. And that’s a problem. But fortunately around statehouses, there has been some action on updating and improving gun violence laws. So we are making some progress there, and we continue to work with our representatives in Washington, D.C., and over time, we are hopeful that we can get something done.”
On how background checks alone won’t stop mass shootings
“There’s no one solution for any single problem, right? This is a complicated issue. In some cases, I would say that expanding background checks will prevent somebody from getting a gun and will prevent them from committing some heinous crime. Since 1999, two million people — two million — have been stopped from buying a gun at a federally licensed firearm dealer because they did not pass a background check. Now why do we give those people the opportunity to go to a gun show and go to the internet or private sale to buy a firearm? I’m a responsible gun owner — I own a number of firearms — and every time I’ve done a background check before buying the gun, and it’s a simple process. So you’re right, in the case of Adam Lanza, mental health was certainly an issue there. And Congress should be acting on that as well.”
On how he stays energized despite the lack of momentum
“When you consider coming from my background, which is a technical background, either as a fighter pilot or as an astronaut, when there’s a problem, we look at the data and we figure out a solution and we implement it. Not so easy with Washington, D.C., and politics. It gets a little more complicated, so it is frustrating. But when Gabby and I decided to take this issue on and form our organization, we knew that this was going to be, as she says, ‘a long, hard haul.’ She is well aware of how Washington works and so am I, so we knew that this was going to be a marathon and not a sprint.”