Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the lawmaker who was wounded in a gun attack, on Monday called for universal background checks for private sales of guns during testimony in Colorado.
Kelly and Giffords have previously said they plan to lobby strongly on state and federal levels for laws to address gun violence. Kelly, a former astronaut, testified before the Colorado Senate's State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee, which is considering tougher legislation. The Colorado proposal requires all private gun sales to be subject to background checks.
Kelly, who stressed that both he and Giffords own guns, said that such checks would be “a small price to pay” to prevent guns from falling into the hands of those who are dangerous.
In January 2011, Giffords was severely wounded during a shooting in a shopping center parking lot near Tucson, in her congressional district. Six people were killed and 13 injured in the shooting rampage by Jared Lee Loughner, who eventually pleaded guilty to 19 federal charges. He is serving a sentence of life in prison without parole.
“The killer from the Tucson shooting suffered from severe mental illness, but even after being deemed unqualified for military service in the Army and expulsion from a community college, he was never reported to mental health services,” Kelly said.
“When dangerous people get guns we are all vulnerable; at church, conducting our daily business, and time after time, at schools and in classes,” Kelly said of Loughner, who legally purchased the weapon and ammunition used in the attack. “Our leaders should not look toward special interests and ideology but toward compromise.”
“There is a segment of the population ... that shouldn't have access to firearms,” Kelly said of the mentally ill.
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