Skip to main content

Mark Kelly: Gun loophole makes no sense

By Mark Kelly, Special to CNN
updated 3:47 PM EST, Fri February 22, 2013
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
updated 9:56 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
updated 4:15 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
updated 3:28 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
updated 11:35 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
updated 8:27 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
updated 7:57 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
updated 10:17 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
updated 9:50 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
updated 11:07 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
updated 1:55 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
updated 3:53 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
updated 3:33 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
updated 6:11 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
updated 12:01 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
updated 1:29 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
updated 2:04 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
updated 11:18 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
updated 9:24 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT