Monday, January 4, 2016

Mark Kelly: Closing Background Check Loopholes "Will Have a Significant Impact on the Number of People That Die in This Nation"

Posted By on Mon, Jan 4, 2016 at 10:00 AM

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President Barack Obama's administration is developing new restrictions aimed at curbing gun violence, including a change in the definition of "gun dealer" that would require background checks on sales at gun shows. The New York Times reports that Obama will hold a town hall meeting on gun violence this Thursday, on the evening of the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting at Gabby Giffords' Congress on Your Corner:

The White House has focused in particular on an executive action that would detail who should be considered a high-volume gun dealer, a move that could expand background checks to a huge number of sales at gun shows and on the Internet.

Retired astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, the husband of former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, talked with NBC's Chuck Todd about that idea. Kelly, who has been fighting for stricter background checks and other firearm restrictions since the Newtown school gunfire massacre, told Todd that part of the resistance to expanding background checks is cultural: 
Well, I mean, the president and I have talked about this. I mean, when you look at places in middle America, people who make less money than they used to. I mean, I just saw this blog entry by Fareed Zakaria the other day, that the one area is middle aged white men, where life expectancy is going down. So you have this segment of society that just feels like they're losing things. And they look at gun issues and the right to own a gun as one of those things that they might be losing.

Now, the other side of this, is we have horrific levels of gun violence, with nearly 100,000 people shot every year, 30,000 dead. And there are some solid things, like closing these background check loopholes, that will have a significant impact on the number of people that die in this nation.
You can watch the whole thing here.

Here's a complete transcript:

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. President Obama is trying again to limit the number of guns in America. The president will meet with his attorney general, Loretta Lynch, tomorrow. And they're going to discuss steps that he believes he can take legally, without Congress. One step he plans on taking is this: changing the definition of a gun dealer, so that people who sell firearms at gun shows fit that definition and have to use the background check system when they sell.

Essentially, this is the president's way of closing the gun show loophole without Congress. In December, a gun safety advocate, Captain Mark Kelly and his wife, former Representative Gabby Giffords, who survived a horrific shooting five years ago this week, by the way, met with President Obama about some possible new gun measures. Well, the former NASA astronaut and cofounder of Americans for Responsible Solutions joins me now. Captain Kelly, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

CAPT. MARK KELLY:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

So I know you know some of what he might be considering. You have made recommendations to the president. The gun show loophole appears to be the most substantive idea out there. Is it feasible?

CAPT. MARK KELLY:

Well, we think it is. So after the Newtown tragedy, Congress tried to get passed a piece of legislation that would close those loopholes. It failed due to a filibuster in the Senate. And after that, Gabby and I directed our staff at Americans for Responsible Solutions to look for other alternatives.

And as it would turn out, the reason why we have some of these loopholes that you can drive a truck through with 40 percent of gun sales not requiring a background check, is because the way they define in the regulation, the way that they define being in the business of selling firearms.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, let's say he makes this change. You can't really enforce the change without resources. And as you know, A.T.F. is an agency that is starved of resources. We did a comparison when it comes to regulation with the F.D.A., for instance. And over basically the last decade, the F.D.A. has seen over the last five years, the F.D.A. had seen a near 50 percent increase in its resources from Congress. A.T.F. not even 10 percent. In fact, they have fewer staff today than they did five years ago. If you don't have the A.T.F. staff, you can't enforce these new regulations.

CAPT. MARK KELLY:

Well, that's true. And so, I mean, one of the other things we need to do is work on getting A.T.F. the money it needs to do its job. But the other side of that, Chuck, is that one of the things that has frustrated the A.T.F. for all these years is the fact that they know there are individuals out there selling hundreds, if not thousands of guns a year.

And they don't have the authority to do anything about it. And these are guns that are often sold to criminals without a background check. And they can't do anything about it. So we need to fix that part of this as well. But you're right, the funding is important.

CHUCK TODD:

What is something, I know one of the things that you have said, we've had this conversation before, is you want to try to get, I guess, the East Coast or urban America to understand the gun culture in rural America. How do you translate that to the president?

CAPT. MARK KELLY:

Well, I mean, the president and I have talked about this. I mean, when you look at places in middle America, people who make less money than they used to. I mean, I just saw this blog entry by Fareed Zakaria the other day, that the one area is middle aged white men, where life expectancy is going down. So you have this segment of society that just feels like they're losing things.

And they look at gun issues and the right to own a gun as one of those things that they might be losing. Now, the other side of this, is we have horrific levels of gun violence, with nearly 100,000 people shot every year, 30,000 dead. And there are some solid things, like closing these background check loopholes, that will have a significant impact on the number of people that die in this nation.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, though, a lot of people say if you just enforce the laws that are on the books, maybe some progress is made. Are you one of those that believes that?

CAPT. MARK KELLY:

Well, you know, it's interesting that that is used by the gun lobby. Anyway, I heard it when I was testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. And what they're getting at is actually charging the individuals, felons, who try to buy a gun and fail a background check.

What these individuals don't point up that use, you know, that line of enforcing the current laws, is we have prevented felons and people who are domestic abusers, and people who are dangerously, mentally ill, from buying a gun nearly two million times because they failed a background check. Of course we need to enforce the laws. But at the same time, preventing those two million individuals from getting a gun has had a serious impact on gun violence.

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