Guest Commentary

Mark Kelly buys an AR-15, so what?

Much has been made recently over Mark Kelly's now-cancelled purchase of an AR-15 rifle at Diamondback Police Supply here in Tucson. I don't get it. According to reports, he walked into the store to buy a pistol, and ended up buying a 1911 style semi-automatic. As he was leaving, he spotted an AR 15 rifle in the rack and bought that too, so what's the point?

Both Mr. Kelly, and his wife Gabrielle Giffords, describe themselves as good old gun owning Westerners, so it is no wonder that when he saw the now extremely rare AR-15 rifle in the rack he jumped at the chance to buy it. You see, when the president and congressional Democrats started making noise about a new "assault weapons ban," rifles based on the AR-15 platform disappeared from the gun stores almost overnight (these are the rifles the president meant, not assault rifles). The shelves remain empty, except for the occasional used gun brought in to sell or put on consignment by people who want to cash in on the high demand. This was the case with Mr. Kelly's new rifle.

Some people claim that it is hypocritical for the co-founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions, a national level anti-liberty group specializing in firearms, to go out and buy an "assault rifle". I don't know. It seems to me that if you are looking for irony (hypocrisy is a stretch), you could have stopped at the pistol purchase. The 1911 style semi-automatic pistol, normally chambered in .45 Auto, is a far more powerful semi-automatic pistol than the one used by the lunatic to brutally attack his wife. I think the purchase is better described as having "bad optics."

What I saw as truly disappointing was his lame attempt to concoct a cover story. In his CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer, Kelly said that he needed "first-hand experience" as part of his research into how easy it is to buy rifles. This is like the politician who is caught by reporters with cameras coming out of a brothel saying, "Well, you all know that I'm against this sort of thing, but I felt that, for the purposes of my research, that I really needed some first-hand experience. This is just the continuation of a plan that I've had for some time now."

Does anybody really believe that he had to actually buy a rifle to find out how easy, or hard it is; or that he probably spent over $1,000 to give it away?

I suppose there are some people in the "gun control" business who, for whatever reason, really believe it, though I suspect most do not. The focus now is on rifles, specifically the AR-15 platform, but anyone who is interested can look at the FBI crime statistics and see that rifles are not the problem — it takes about five minutes. According to those statistics, for example, there were 339 murders in Arizona in 2011, only 14 of which involved rifles of any kind — not just AR-15's.

Some people suggested that Mr. Kelly is setting the stage for a political run, maybe senator from Arizona, or some such race. I don't think so. I think he's found himself in a more beneficial business model. Consider his position. He has had successful careers as both a Navy officer and an astronaut. Does he really want to take on yet a third very demanding job that starts at a mere $174,000 a year? I suspect not. On the other hand, according to a 2008 tax filing, Sarah Brady earned $141,000 for performing an estimated 10 hours of work a week as director of the Brady Center to Prevent Handgun Violence. It seems to me to be a better gig for someone in Mr. Kelly's position.

Both Mr. Kelly and Ms. Giffords are pretty astute business people. Giffords waited until she was vested in her Congressional retirement before she resigned, and the release of their book was well timed. We can assume that the two are financially secure, and this new business is something that they can do together part time.

I don't think that Mr. Kelly is a hypocrite. I think he is a businessman who is well positioned to provide a service for which, I'm sad to say, there appears to be a significant market. I also believe, based on his actions, that Mr. Kelly is a Western gun guy. That is something he and I have in common.