NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, whose wife Gabby Giffords was shot in the head, still owns guns. He says Congress could do a lot more to keep people safe.

NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, whose wife Gabby Giffords was shot in the head, still owns guns. He says Congress could do a lot more to keep people safe.

mark kelly gabby giffords

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly.


NASA astronaut Mark Kelly was almost a widower.

Kelly's wife, former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, was shot point blank in the head eight years ago, as she met with constituents outside a Safeway grocery store during a "Congress on your corner" meet-up.

Miraculously, Giffords survived, but six other people who were at the event died that day, including a nine-year-old.

They are just a few of the nearly 40,000 people who are killed at the barrel of a gun every year in the US.


"A lot of them are children," Kelly told Business Insider. "What we're doing isn't working."

Kelly is running for the Senate in 2020; the former astronaut, test pilot, and engineer is hoping to fill former Senator John McCain's seat.

Statistics suggest he's right about the US' gun-violence problems. Americans are far more likely to get shot than die in a car accident, drown, or choke to death. In contrast, countries like South Africa, Australia, and Brazil that have strengthened their gun laws have seen firearm deaths plummet.

The non-profit Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (which Kelly and Giffords helped found) tracks which states have the most gun deaths and has found a clear connection between lax firearm regulation and more fatalities.

"We need some stronger gun laws, but laws that are common sense, that most Americans agree with," Kelly said. "I'm a supporter of the Second Amendment. I probably own more firearms than your average Arizonan. But we could do things to keep people safer."


About 90% of people in the US say they support universal background checks for gun sales, and 80% of gun owners do, too. Kelly is one of them.

astronauts scott mark kelly twin brothers facing off nasa jsc2015e004212


Astronaut Scott Kelly (right) and former astronaut Mark Kelly (left) are twins who have helped NASA explore what life in space does to the human body.

Kelly has three big policy proposals on gun safety. First, he supports universal federal background check legislation that would require every gun seller in the US to vet who's buying their guns. Currently, only licensed firearm dealers are required to use the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The US House recently passed legislation about this, but the bill hasn't yet been voted on in the Senate.

Second, Kelly said the US should crack down on domestic violence offenders with guns. Perpetrators of mass shootings have disproportionately troubling histories of abusing women. In the 10 deadliest mass shootings in US history, nine of the shooters had some history of violence toward women. Technically, anyone who's been convicted on a domestic violence charge is barred from owning or buying a gun in the US, but in practice there are many loopholes to this rule.

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AP Photo/Tim Roske

Former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly at an arms fair in Saratoga Springs, New York on October 13, 2013.


Finally, more red-flag laws would help, Kelly said. These laws permit family members, roommates, law-enforcement officers, and others who are worried about someone's mental state to temporarily restrict that person's access to guns. At least 17 states and DC now have some form of red flag laws, according to the Giffords Law Center.

Kelly said that none of this rulemaking would undermine anyone's Constitutional rights.

"We could do things to keep people safer without infringing on the Second Amendment rights of responsible people," he said.