Skip to main content

Mark Kelly: Gun loophole makes no sense

By Mark Kelly, Special to CNN
February 22, 2013 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mark Kelly: Gun violence in the U.S. is out of control
  • He says 2 million Americans have failed gun background checks
  • Those who failed can buy guns at a gun show or online; that makes no sense, he says
  • Kelly: Majority of Americans and gun owners support background checks for all

Editor's note: Mark Kelly, the last commander of the Space Shuttle Endeavour and a former naval aviator, is the husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

(CNN) -- I served in the armed forces for 25 years, but until January 8, 2011, I didn't think about guns or gun violence that much. I had other things to think about -- my children, traveling between Houston and Tucson and Washington to see my wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and of course, flying the space shuttle.

Mark Kelly
Mark Kelly

Like lots of people, every time there was a mass shooting, with lots of news coverage, I watched, but I wasn't aware of the statistics and of how gun violence permeates our country.

Then Gabby was shot and six of her constituents were murdered during a "Congress on Your Corner" event in Tucson, Arizona. During her long and ongoing recovery, I started paying a lot more attention.

I'm a numbers guy, a statistics guy -- and what I've learned has shocked me. Almost 100 people a day die from a gun, 33 are murdered. We've got 20 times the murder rate of similar countries.

I've watched the globe spin past below me from the window of the space shuttle. And so my perspective has changed. I see this epidemic of gun violence as a crisis, because I know that every statistic is a citizen --- someone like my wife, or Hadiya Pendleton's mom, Cleopatra, who says simply about her daughter, murdered senselessly in Chicago, "a piece of my heart is gone." And, excuse the reference, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that while this issue is complicated, there are things we can do -- now, together -- that will reduce violence.

Like background checks. Right now, we have two systems. Some people, like me, when we buy a gun, we go through a background check. It takes about five minutes -- trust me, I'm not known to be a patient guy, and it didn't take more than a few minutes when I bought a rifle this past November.

Ninety-one percent of background checks are completed instantaneously, and they don't lead to a government database. And they work. I passed my background check and got my gun, and since 1994, more than 2 million folks -- among them, criminals and dangerously mentally ill people -- failed their background checks. But we don't know which of those millions just got in their car and drove to a gun show, or home to their computer to go on the Internet -- both places where anyone can buy a gun without a background check.

That doesn't make sense. It's like saying, hey, criminals, to board the plane, either go through a metal detector and be checked against the terrorist watch list, or, if you prefer, walk right down that red carpet and take a seat, no search necessary. Which would you choose?

That's why Gabby and I are so determined to get a universal background check in place. It's simple, it's not a Republican or a Democratic issue, and it closes a clear loophole that puts our kids and our communities at risk, and it does it in a way that respects the Second Amendment rights of people like me.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



We aren't naive in thinking that expanded background checks will solve all our problems overnight, but they are a great first step that even gun owners support.

So, I'm putting everything I learned from my time in the Navy and at NASA -- 375 aircraft carrier landings, 39 combat missions and more than 50 days in space -- to working with Gabby and Americans For Responsible Solutions' more than 100,000 members to get this done.

When you're at the controls of a plane or the space shuttle, you rely on data. You analyze it methodically; you evaluate it objectively. The data around background checks is clear: Up to 40% of gun transfers are made without background checks, and a national survey of inmates found that nearly 80% of those who used a handgun in a crime acquired it without a background check. That tells me that criminals are getting guns, because we're making it too easy.

And 82% of U.S. gun owners -- including more than 70% of NRA members -- support criminal background checks for all gun sales. Ninety-two percent of all households in the country support universal background checks. That tells me that citizens across the country want Congress to get this done, because they know it will keep us safer.

That's a clear path, right there. We can get there if we all raise our voices.

Talk to your neighbors, your co-workers, the parents at your kids' basketball game. Talk to your elected representative.

Tell them you want one system, a universal background check that will keep all of us safer and respects our Second Amendment rights. Join Gabby and me at www.Americansforresponsiblesolutions.org.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mark Kelly.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT