Capt. Mark Kelly Explains Recent Assault Weapon Purchase during Sarasota Press Conference

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Retired NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly Fields Questions from Media during a Press Conference in Sarasota, Fla., March 11, 2013

Retired NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly Fields Questions from Media during a Press Conference in Sarasota, Fla., March 11, 2013

It wasn’t by choice Capt. Mark Kelly and his wife Gabrielle Giffords have become faces of gun control. “When you have 20 first graders murdered in their classrooms and we see these mass shootings time and time again, I think everybody has got to do something,” Kelly said during a press conference in Sarasota, Fla., Monday and added, “Whatever they think they could do to positively effect this horrible situation we have in our country I think it’s a responsibility that everybody has.”

Kelly was in Sarasota to give two lectures during the Ringling College Library Association’s Town Hall Lecture Series. His appearance was booked about a year ago and who could have predicted he’d be in the media spotlight for something other than his military and NASA career and caregiver for his wife Gabby? Prior to his morning lecture, the retired astronaut met with members of the Sarasota and Tampa Bay media to field questions which primarily focused on gun control.

Capt. Mark Kelly Explains Why He Purchased an Assault Weapon during a Press Conference in Sarasota, Fla., March 11, 2013

Capt. Mark Kelly Explains Why He Purchased an Assault Weapon during a Press Conference in Sarasota, Fla., March 11, 2013

Life significantly changed for the NASA astronaut and his wife, an Arizona congresswoman, on Jan. 8, 2011, when she was shot in the head, six of her constituents were killed and 13 were injured by a gunman. Kelly was in training to command the final launch of space shuttle Endeavour and for a short time he took a leave in order to be Giffords’ primary caregiver. She was later transferred to a hospital in Houston recognized for treating traumatic brain injuries and Kelly resumed his training at the NASA Johnson Space Center.

For the last two years, Giffords has been working on her recovery and although with each mass shooting they have discussed speaking out on the issue of gun control, it was the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012 in which 26 people were killed at a school, 20 of them first graders, that triggered the couple to speak out.

Is Mark Kelly a Hypocrite for Purchasing AR-15?

Earlier this month, the retired astronaut purchased an AR-15 assault rifle which has some of the blogosphere calling Kelly a hypocrite.

So why would someone whose wife was shot in the head and who is speaking out on gun control do this?

“This is a complicated issue that I need to understand. I need to understand how hard or easy it is to buy an assault weapon. Or to make a regular gun purchase,” Kelly told the press. “A couple of weeks ago I bought an AR-15, which I’ll turn into the police, and a .45-caliber pistol just to understand how quick the background check is, to see how hard it is to buy an assault weapon or how easy.

“Trying to understand this very complicated issue from a first-hand perspective,” he said and added, “That’s really important. It’s hard for me to speak about these things, about buying an assault weapon, when I had never done it. That’s the crux of it.”

He continued saying he and his wife are gun owners and strong supporters of the second amendment who “really feel something needs to be done.”

It Was a Full House of Media during the Press Conference with Capt. Mark Kelly, Sarasota, Fla., March 11, 2013

It Was a Full House of Media during the Press Conference with Capt. Mark Kelly, Sarasota, Fla., March 11, 2013

The couple owns two 9mm pistols, a .45, a hunting rifle, a .25-caliber that belonged to his father who was a police officer for 25 years, and the AR-15.

Although he doesn’t agree with the National Rifle Association’s solution of having more people carrying guns, especially in schools, he believes with the majority of NRA membership. Seventy-four percent of NRA membership believes background checks should be run on individuals before they purchase a gun.

Despite the Sarasota Herald-Tribune advancing a story stating Kelly would be bringing a gun control message to town, they were slightly wrong. The media specifically asked questions on the topic however when he took the Van Wezel stage the only discussion of gun control occurred during the Question & Answer session following his lecture.

He was asked what’s the one thing people can do right now regarding the issue.

“Call or write your members of Congress,” he said. He explained each congressman represents about 700,000 people and of those, very few people contact their elected officials. By voicing your opinion you can make a difference.

Find your representative here.

So what did Capt. Kelly talk about while on stage? Read Capt. Mark Kelly Inspires Sarasota Audience.

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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