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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mark Kelly: Gun Control Is ‘Marathon, Not A Sprint’

Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords listens as her husband retired astronaut and combat veteran Captain Mark Kelly speaks during a news conference at the Millyard Museum, Friday, July 5, 2013 in Manchester, N.H. (Mary Schwalm/AP)

Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords listens as her husband retired astronaut and combat veteran Captain Mark Kelly speaks during a news conference at the Millyard Museum, Friday, July 5, 2013 in Manchester, N.H. (Mary Schwalm/AP)

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.

Interview Highlights: Mark Kelly

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.”

Guest

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

This is HERE & NOW.

As we approach Saturday, which marks a year since Newtown, we're having a number of conversations about gun control and mental health. And we're pleased to be joined now by someone who has been working to pass legislation on both issues, ever since his wife was shot in 2011

Mark Kelly is a former astronaut who is married to former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Together they founded the group Americans for Responsible Solutions, which is pushing to reduce gun violence. Mark Kelly, welcome to HERE & NOW.

MARK KELLY: Great to be here.

HOBSON: Well, it's great to have you. And I wanted to start, you know, here we are three years after the shooting that injured your wife, Gabrielle Giffords. We are about a year after the Newtown tragedy. There's basically no action on gun control, and I wonder how you feel about that, first off.

KELLY: Yeah, not much. Right? I mean, 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, you know, that's a problem. But fortunately around statehouses, there has been some action on, you know, updating and improving gun violence laws. And, you know, so we're making some progress there. And we continue to work, you know, with our representatives in Washington, D.C. And over time, you know, we are hopeful that we can get something done.

HOBSON: Well, there was one thing that happened. It happened this week and this was the extension of the ban on plastic guns, although some didn't think that it went far enough, because now you can re-create these things using 3-D printers. These are guys that would be able to get through a metal detector. Are you happy that that passed?

KELLY: Well, you know, it was, you know, an extension of existing law. So it was, you know, something that's been in place - yeah, that's a good thing. But you're right and, you know, their new technologies out there like 3-D printers that can, you know, print weapons. Currently that's not very well regulated, so that needs to be considered by Congress and updated as well.

HOBSON: What would you say that you have accomplished in your fight over these last few years on any of these issues? And I know that you're not just focused on gun control. And you are a Second Amendment supporter. You're also focused on trying to deal with mental health issues.

KELLY: Yeah, so we've, you know, raise considerable resources to communicate. We've, you know, spent time in state capitals. You know, me personally testifying in front a number of Senate Judiciary committees in statehouses around the country. So we've been really helpful on the state level. We participated, you know, in the Virginia election for the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

So we've been busy building organization and raising the money that is going to be necessary to try to bring some balance to this issue in - particularly in Washington, D.C.

HOBSON: What do you mean by bring some balance to the issue?

KELLY: Well, for 30 years, you know, the gun lobby, particularly the NRA, has done a, you know, you've got to give them a lot of credit. They've done a fabulous job of building a lot of influence with our elected officials in Washington. They've done a very good job at it, and that's why it's very difficult to get some of this legislation passed, including legislation like expanding background checks to gun shows and the Internet that sees support from 92 percent of Americans. And even 74 percent of NRA members thinks is a good idea that you get a background check before buying a gun.

But it can pass Congress, and that's because the NRA in particular have done a great job supporting certain members and opposing others. And I give them a lot of say in what happens on this issue.

HOBSON: Well, it sounds like what you're saying it's easier for you to have influence in state capitals than Washington. Is that the way forward for gun control advocates, to forget about trying to pass federal legislation and simply move to the states?

KELLY: You know, you think like anything, it can be a multipronged approach. I may we continue to focus our efforts in Washington. But we also, you know, recognize that in some regard, in some states, it's easier to get this done. And, you know, we're not going to sit by after what happened in Newtown, and before that Aurora and so many other places, and the daily gun violence we have is just unacceptable.

You know, in 2013, the United States of America should not rank so poorly on a statistic such as gun violence. We can do a lot better than that.

HOBSON: Well, and I'm sure you've heard many on the other side of this issue saying that the Navy Yard shooter wouldn't have been stopped with background checks; Adam Lanza, the shooter in Newtown, wouldn't have been stopped with background checks. What do you say to that argument?

KELLY: Well, there is no one solution for any, you know, single problem, right? This is a complicated issue. You know, in some cases, I would say that expanding background checks will prevent somebody from getting a gun and will prevent them from, you know, 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, you know, the Internet or private sale to buy a firearm?

I'm a responsible gun owner, you know, I own, you know, a number of firearms and every time I've done, you know, a background check before buying the gun, and it's a simple process. So you're right. You know, in the case of Adam Lanza, you know, mental health was certainly an issue there. And Congress should be acting on that as well.

HOBSON: We are speaking with former astronaut Mark Kelly. And you're listening to HERE & NOW.

And, Mark Kelly, when was the last time you shot one of your guns?

KELLY: The last time was probably I think over the summer, about six months ago.

HOBSON: And - I don't know how I'm going as this question. Is it weird at all to shoot a gun, given your own experience with the consequences of it?

KELLY: No, not really. Actually, not at all. It's not even weird for my wife, Gabby, to shoot a gun; something she did before she was shot herself. You know, she actually doesn't remember being shot. She was the first one of 18 people that were shot on that day in Arizona. And it's something that she enjoyed, you know, to some extent before she was injured. And she still does now occasionally.

HOBSON: She still shoots guns.

KELLY: Well, yeah, occasionally. I mean not that - you know, she shot - we were on a trip and we were in Nevada over the summer. We went to arrange and she shot with her left hand.

HOBSON: Hmm. How is she doing? A lot of people, of course, got to know her so well before and after. I remember I met her right when she arrived in Washington as a new member of Congress. But many people, of course, got to know her after the shooting on television. How is she doing now?

KELLY: Yeah, she's doing really well. I mean she's working really hard and continues to work very hard on her recovery. She's in a great mood. You know, this issue is very important to her and she's improving all the time. I mean it's not, you know, rapid, you know, increase in, you know, whatever she happens to be working on. But she, you know, she takes her PT and OT and speech therapy all very seriously. She's doing great, thanks. Thanks for asking.

HOBSON: I finally want to ask you how you stay energized about this issue. It must be frustrating to see the lack of action on an issue that you care so much about.

KELLY: Yeah, when you consider coming from my background, you know, which is a technical background as either a fighter pilot or as an astronaut, when there's a problem, you know, we look at the data and we figure out a solution and we implement it. Not so easy with Washington, D.C., and politics. You know, 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, you know, as she says, a long, hard haul. You know, she's 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.

HOBSON: That's former astronaut Mark Kelly, co-founder, along with his wife, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, of the gun safety lobby group Americans for Responsible Solutions.

Mark Kelly, thank you so much for coming in.

KELLY: Great to be on your show, thank you.

HOBSON: And let us know your thoughts at hereandnow.org. This is HERE & NOW.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Chad Underdonk
    • gordon_wagner

      lol do you see any police departments embracing 5-round magazines instead of 30-round magazines? Of course not. Why disarm the public? That’s suspicious.

  • Prospector

    Isn’t Mark Kelly the guy who tried to show that the “gun laws” don’t work by breaking the law (straw purchase) and got caught? Yeah, that’s the guy.

    Why does he get a Get Out of Jail Free card?

  • gordon_wagner

    The ignored common factor in all “mass shooter” instances are SSRI medications, Zoloft et al. Those drugs cause a certain percentage of users to react violently. Yet Big Pharma makes certain that fact never is heard on mainstream media. Look at the lengths the alleged investigation in Newtown has gone to in order to avoid releasing the alleged perp’s medication history.

    • Chris W

      I like how you say “alleged.” Did any one else notice in the reports released by media outlets that they only briefly state that the report says there was more than one shooter and then they completely ignore it the rest of the article.

    • fun bobby

      the official report went to great lengths to say he was not on drugs nor under the care of a physician. all the other guys were though

  • Adam

    Plastic guns going through metal detectors is a proven myth. “The worst part of Schumer’s phony alarm about 3D-printer guns is that we’ve been down this path before, when gun-control activists tried to get Austrian-made Glock pistols banned from the U.S. in the late 1980s. The allegation then was that the innovative Glock, made mostly from industrial-strength plastic known as polymer, would defy airport security measures. As I recounted in a January 2011 Bloomberg Businessweek cover article, the would-be Glock banners:
    Claimed that because it was mostly plastic, the pistol would be invisible to X-ray machines. “Only the barrel, slide, and one spring are metal,” the late Jack Anderson wrote in his syndicated column in January 1986. “

  • GunOwningLiberal

    I think there is still a common misconception when it comes to purchasing a gun at a gun show and or online. These weapons still go through a FFL, with the exception of private sale. I’m so fed up with the media portraying the gun show to be a breeding ground for illegal purchases for firearms. Being a little more concise, opposed to generalizing that all dealers are committing crimes at gun shows would help with the pandemonium in the general public.

    • fun bobby

      the Obama admin is aware that expanding background checks would do nothing yet it sounds good so they go with it

      • MrApple

        Biden said just as much.

  • blah

    Why wold anyone discuss for or against gun control laws without knowing what the law would be? This is a sad and ignorant world.

    • MrApple

      How is the taking away of rights and freedoms of the law abiding citizen ever a good thing, no matter how the law is worded?

  • Lloyd Reese

    Heard a little of the show today and noted Mark Kelly’s comment that millions of people who cannot legally purchase a gun have been stopped by background checks. To check out that figure, I suggest you read John Lott’s comments on this subject: http://johnrlott.blogspot.com/2011/06/problem-with-brady-background-checks.html. In the fourth paragraph he concludes that nearly all denials (94%) are
    false positives. Additionally, what we do not know is how many of the actual denials went on to purchase a firearm through illegal channels as little is known about this market. To concluded that comprehensive background checks will do anything to reduce crime is simply without a sound basis.

    I have noted that NPR seems to pursue only stories that focus on guns control or as re-branded, gun safety. When will it have a story that focuses on the “saves” due to a citizen have a firearm available to defend themselves!

    • fun bobby

      they should have to run an armed citizen story for each of these propaganda pieces. they never mention how only about 50 people out of that 2 million have be prosecuted

  • Scott D

    You can tell he has no argument based on the number of times he said ‘you know’ in the discussion.

  • fun bobby

    I wonder what kind of salaries they are drawing from their Bloomberg financed organization.

  • never an informant

    The FBI is contributing to mass shootings with their protection of informants wanted for homicides racket. The FBI screwed Loughner and had the public screw and shun Loughner about the crimes comitted by Jonathan Lee Riches. Riches, a federally arrested person was using the alias ” Jared Lee Loughner” while wanted for another serious crime. Loughner probably had no idea why people were treating him badly, shunning him or saying untrue things about him… and he lashed out. For better understanding, read the article “The FBI always gets thier man” and articles about bullying.
    The FBI is having the public screw innocent people with the wants and criminal history of some federal informant wanted for murder. The link betwern the shooter and the victims is the FBIs false information.The FBI are also allowing the informant to take on the identity/background of the innocent person, then allowing the informant to claim that the innocent person is stealing the informants identity (at the same time the FBI is claiming the innocent person is the criminal). When the innocent person complains about identity theft, the FBI fabricates a mental illness.
    The FBI had given false information to businesses and people through infraguard and other communication systems.

  • jonathanpulliam

    This article is just one more example of why people with an interest in gun issues don’t turn to NPR’s “All Things Distorted” or “Here & Now”. Newtown residents opted to secure their retailers and banks with paid security. They skimped on protecting their most treasured resource, even though Newtown is a very affluent community, from all reports. Moreover, it is not true that no legislation folowed in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. New York State enacted a knee-jerk, ignorance-based limit on magazine capacity to seven rounds — to what exact purpose remains to be seen…

  • MrApple

    Likewise, protecting the 2nd Amendment rights of the citizens of this nation is also a marathon. One that we can NEVER stop running.

  • williamdiamon

    I’m glad to see him focus on improving our mental heath care although reporting a person is not the same as treating them. This may lead them to treatment, or to other means. But it is certainly a better direction then the AWB and UBC, which would do nothing. Hey, even a broken clock is right twice a day, but it doesn’t mean his head is working.

  • ramrodd

    Mental health is the avenue to gun confiscation.. these people are showing their hand – they want confiscation!!

    Politicians and Media push gun control in a dangerous and dishonest manner..
    Look out you folks that have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, even ADHD…lets not forget PMS!! The list is endless……….

    http://fff.org/explore-freedom/article/who-is-mentally-ill/

    http://www.wnd.com/2013/12/gun-controllers-plan-sneak-attacks/

  • lightingengineer

    The black community is being terrorized by feral black males (less than 4% of the population) that commit 50% of the murders in this country. The black murder rate, with or without firearms, is 6.4 times the non-black murder rate. Most murders are initiated by arguments. We could save 4,000 black lives per year if the black murder rate just equaled the non-black murder rate. This ongoing long term tragedy will never be addressed unless it is acknowledged. The cowardly and lying hoplophobic, media,and politicians prefer to allow this cultural phenomenon be portrayed as a problem caused by firearms.

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