In this Fox News Sunday Show With Chris Wallace: Mark Kelly on whether call to action on gun control is fading; Cardinal Donald Wuerl on new pope
WALLACE: Hello, again, and happy Easter from Fox News in Washington.
Well, after months of debate, the Senate is finally ready to vote on new gun control legislation. One of the people at the center of the issue is Mark Kelly, retired astronaut and Navy captain, and the husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot two years ago.
Captain Kelly joins us from Tucson, Arizona.
Captain, after Newtown, there was national outrage over these acts of mass violence, but that has begun to change. CBS has a new poll, just after the massacre, 57 percent supported stricter gun controls. Now, that’s down to 47 percent.
And, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the bill he’ll introduce the week after next won’t include a ban on assault weapons and won’t include a limit on high capacity magazines.
Question — should President Obama have moved faster to bring it to a vote before the call for action began to fade?
CAPTAIN MARK KELLY, (RET.) U.S. NAVY: Well, I think, after something like, you know, 20 first graders being murdered in their classrooms, you know, it is important to take action. And the American people are demanding action now. You know, the timeline of that, you know, sometimes, especially with a polarized Congress, these things can take a long time.
But, it’s clear — and you say that, you know, there is less support and I want to address that for a second. When you use words like gun control, you know, gun control doesn’t poll very well, but we do know that over 90 percent of Americans support a universal background check. And, there is incredible momentum in Congress and around the nation to get this done.
WALLACE: Well, you say incredible momentum. Five Republican senators say that they are going to filibuster any additional gun restrictions. We have them up on the screen.
What do you say, for instance, to Marco Rubio and Rand Paul?
KELLY: Well, first, I would say to Marco Rubio that 94 percent of his constituents support a universal background check.
For Senator Rand Paul, it’s about 83 percent, in Kentucky. So, they should listen to their constituents and, certainly, shouldn’t be getting in the way of the process, which is to debate the bill and to vote on the bill. I mean, that doesn’t make any sense.
And, I imagine that at some point, if they actually do this, that their constituents will hold them accountable for those actions.
WALLACE: Why do you think there is, in polls — I mean, there are a couple of things going on here. One, we see in the polls, diminishing support. Two, we see Harry Reid, who is, you know, the Senate majority leader, and he’s not even going to include the high capacity magazines or the assault weapons ban in the bill. They’ll be a vote of amendments, but they’re not part of the bill. He says in the assault weapons ban, it wouldn’t get 40 votes, let alone 60.
What’s going on?
KELLY: Well, certainly, you know, in this country we have a very powerful gun lobby and the leadership of the NRA has done a very good job over many, many years of controlling the debate on this issue. But, one thing that is different now, is the fact that we had 20 first graders murdered in a classroom, along with six educators. I mean, that’s unacceptable.
And the American people, you know, want something done on this. You know, 92 percent of Americans support a universal background check. It’s 74 percent of NRA members.
I would hope at some point that the leadership of the NRA would just listen to their membership on this issue.
WALLACE: We’re going to get to the background check in a second. One last question about the Senate, because Republicans say they are going to offer an alternative bill that would crack down on gun trafficking and would beef up school safety. It would not include the background check or an assault weapons ban.
What do you think of what’s called the “Grassley alternative”?
KELLY: Well, you know, I think it is a mistake. Any bill that does not include a universal background check is a mistake. It’s the most common-sense thing that we can do to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from having access to weapons.
I mean, the system we have right now, we have 40 percent of all Americans who buy a gun, buy it without a background check and that’s probably where most of the criminals and the mentally ill are going. I mean, we know from a poll that has been done with criminals in prison, that over 80 percent of them get them through that loophole.
So, it would be a mistake not to address the thing that 92 percent of American households support and 74 percent of NRA members support, which is the universal background check.
WALLACE: All right. Well, let’s pick up on that, because the main feature of what is going to be in the Senate bill and what you are pushing and pushing today is the universal background check. This week, you went — or rather, recently, a few weeks ago, you went to a gun store in the Arizona area, and bought a .45 caliber hand gun and afterwards discussed the background check you had to go through with your wife, Gabby.
Let’s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: It was very easy to do. It took just like five minutes.
FORMER REP. GABBY GIFFORDS, D-ARIZ.: Yes. Five minutes.
KELLY: You know, that’s all we have to do to make sure everybody has to get a background check before buying a gun, to make sure that criminals and the mentally ill can’t get one.
GIFFORDS: Universal background check.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Captain Kelly, what do you think that showed?
KELLY: Well, you know, we went in there, my executive director (inaudible), the executive of our organization, and in five minutes and 36 seconds is the time it took to fill out one piece of paper. You only have to fill out one side for it to be submitted to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and get an answer. Five minutes and 36 seconds.
So, what it shows you is that it is not the burden that the NRA leadership says, what a background check is. I mean, it’s s a simple, common sense thing we can do to make sure criminals and the mentally ill can’t have access to firearms.
WALLACE: Well, let’s talk about that, because, in Gabby’s tragic case, the shooter, Jared Loughner, had been suspended from college, because he was deemed to be a threat to himself and to others. He went to a gun store, he got a gun, passed a background check. And, yet was able to go out and shoot Gabby and 18 other people.
And, the NRA says the problem with the background check is that — the kind of mental health information, for instance in Loughner’s case, doesn’t get passed on. So, it doesn’t get to be part of the background check.
KELLY: Well, it doesn’t get passed on in a lot of cases. You know, you know, 19 states have included less than 100 records on mental illness into the NICS, into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. In the case of the shooter in Tucson, the information on his mental illness, that caused him to get expelled from community college, that should have been in the system. His admitted drug use to the U.S. Army, who rejected him, that should have been in the system.
So he should have — if we had, you know, a system — if we improved the system, he would have been rejected from buying the gun in the gun store. Now, the other problem is, there’s the other loophole, right? There’s the records loophole, but there is the loophole that would allow him to go to a gun show, or on the Internet to buy a gun.
And we need to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from doing that. It’s crazy that we have a system — you know, we have a system that responsible gun owners get a background check, and the option to avoid one is available for anybody who doesn’t want to do it. I mean, it’s a — it’s a crazy system.
WALLACE: But doesn’t the NRA have a point: if you’re going to expand the background check and cover more people, don’t you have to make sure the mental health information gets into the system, because otherwise it’s kind of a waste of time?
KELLY: They absolutely have a point. I mean, they are — they are right on that issue.
I mean, we need to encourage states to include the mental health records. After Virginia Tech, for instance, Virginia was one of the worst states on this. And after what happened in Virginia Tech, they’re actually really, really good about getting those records to the federal government.
So I’m encouraging — I mean, I would love to be able to work with the leadership of the NRA and work with the United States Senate and the House to make sure we get those records in the system and then close the gun show and private seller loophole, like 92 percent of Americans want, like 74 percent of NRA members want.
WALLACE: The big hold-up in the Senate now over the background check is that if you do expand it to include gun shows and private sales, do the people who sell the guns in those cases have to keep private records? Keep records of those sales? And as you well know, the NRA says the danger is that if they have to do what licensed dealers have to do and keep those records, that could be used to form a national registry and somewhere down the line, that could be used to confiscate people’s guns.
How do you respond to that?
KELLY: Well, I just don’t think it’s logical. I mean, right now, when you buy a gun in a gun store like I did, you know, there is a record that remains with the gun store. It’s not a record with the federal government. It is not a record that is going to one day lead to a national registry, or gun confiscation.
So the system currently works with the federally licensed firearms dealers. There is no reason that same system cannot work with the gun show, and the private seller. But, of course, this is an issue for many, you know, some Republican senators. And it’s certainly something that could be worked on. I mean, we’ve got a lot of smart members in the Senate and I think they can figure out a compromise on this issue.
WALLACE: Finally, Arizona officials this week released a lot of records about the shooter, Jared Loughner, the man who shot Gabby and 18 others. His parents, it turns out, knew he was deeply disturbed. They tested him for drugs, but they did not send him to get help.
What do you have to say after learning all of this to Jared Loughner’s parents?
KELLY: Well, certainly as a parent, myself, I understand. I mean, it is a tragic thing they went through as well. It would have been an entirely different situation, however, if he would have gotten some mental health — you know, gotten an evaluation. And when he — you know, certainly in his case, when he’s taking medication, he’s not as psychotic as without the medication.
So, this would have clearly been — would not have happened if he would have had proper mental health treatment, you know? But you can’t — you know, you can’t go back in time. I mean, there’s — you know, the only thing we can do is move forward and try to make sure that the dangerously mentally ill are not only getting treatment for their mental illness, but let’s make sure they don’t have access to guns. Let’s make sure criminals don’t have access to guns.
I mean, our organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions — I mean, we are really focused on this, every, single day. To make sure we fix this problem, and we address gun violence in this country.
WALLACE: I just want to pick up on that last point, because after Newtown, there was a lot of talk about making it easier for authorities, a school or a family to commit a Jared Loughner, an Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter before they got access to guns and acted out in this horrible way. But, that seems to have been forgotten in all of the debate about gun control.
KELLY: Well, I don’t know if it has been forgotten. I mean, certainly, you know, the debate in the Senate is going to — going to include some aspect of help for the mentally ill. Now, what that is, you know, I’m not — you know, I don’t know what those details — how that’s going to turn out but that is certainly an important component of this. I mean, to address mental illness in this country, to get those records of mental illness into the system and then to make sure that there isn’t a loophole where the clearly dangerously and mentally ill and criminals can get access to a gun.
WALLACE: Captain Kelly, we want to thank you. Thank you for joining us. And we want to wish you and your wife, Gabby, the very best, sir.
KELLY: Thank you, and, happy Easter, Chris.
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