Mark Kelly said that if the background checks they're calling for had been in place, the man who shot Gabrielle Giffords never would have been able to buy a gun.
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, are pushing hard in their support of a bill in Congress that would require universal background checks on gun purchases.
Giffords doesn't speak in public very often, but today she had a message she hopes Congress will hear.
"Be bold. Be courageous," she said. "Please support background checks. Thank you very much."
Giffords, Kelly and many other Tucson shooting survivors and family members gathered at the scene of the Jan. 8 tragedy today.
They are urging Arizona's Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, to support the background check bill.
Kelly says 40 percent of legal gun sales do not require the checks.
He also says more than 90 percent of Americans support universal checks.
Two years ago then-Giffords aide Pam Simon was standing next to Giffords when they both were shot.
Simon told the crown today the Tucson tragedy should have been a wake-up call.
"And everybody said at the time something has to change," Simon said. "But they said it after Aurora. They said it after Wisconsin. They said it after the Sikh temple (in Wisconsin). And finally, we had the unbelievable carnage of 20 little children being killed. Is that the wake-up call we needed?"
Giffords, Kelly and the others have sent a letter to Arizona's Senators that asks them to support background checks to "make sure dangerous people don't get guns."
Kelly says he and Giffords are gun owners and support the Second Amendment.
However, Kelly says this isn't a Second Amendment issue, but a public safety issue about keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals and those with mental illness.
He says more than 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks.
Suzi Hileman had taken 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green to Giffords' Congress on Your Corner event two years ago when shots rang out.
Green was killed, Hileman was seriously wounded.
As Green's mother stood beside Hileman today, Hileman told the crowd it's time to act and it's time for Arizona's Senators to "represent us."
"It's too easy to throw up your hands and do nothing," Hileman said. "It's an intractable problem. It's divisive. The other side is too powerful. They have too much money. I have heard it all and I am tired of listening."
The Senate Judiciary Committee takes up the universal background check bill tomorrow.
Sen. Jeff Flake released the following statement:
"I applaud Gabby and Mark for their efforts to strengthen background checks for gun purchases, particularly as it relates to including mental health records in the NICS. Along with three of my colleagues, I introduced legislation today to improve mental health background reporting. We can make a difference here, in large part due to what Gabby and Mark are doing."
The legislation Flake referred to is called The NICS Reporting Improvement Act of 2013, introduced by U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, R-SC; Mark Begich D-AK; Mark Pryor D-AR and Flake.
According to a news release from Flake's office, the legislation is meant to clarify circumstances under which a person loses the right to receive or possess firearms based on mental illness.
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