SARASOTA, Fla. -- American astronaut Mark Kelly has been in space four times, flew in combat missions during the Gulf War, is a prostate cancer survivor and is a best-selling author. Kelly's new mission: fighting for better gun control.
It's a topic he focuses on during a lecture in Sarasota.
Kelly is the guest speaker at the Ringling College Library Association Town Hall 2014 Lecture Series, hosted at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center.
"It's not what I wanted to do or what Gabby wanted to do, but when you have 20 first graders murdered in a classroom and you see mass shootings time and time again, everybody has got to do something," says Kelly.
The battle lines were clearly drawn for Kelly after the assassination attempt on his wife, former US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2011. Giffords is still recovering and six constituents were killed.
Kelly and Giffords spoke before a Senate Judiciary Committee on gun control earlier this year.
Kelly says, "I think there's a good opportunity to pass a universal background check. That's the most important thing we can do right now to save some people's lives."
Kelly has been criticized for recently buying an AR-15 assault rifle and a pistol at a gun store in Houston. Kelly says he did so, "Just to understand how a background check is, to see how hard it is to buy an assault weapon or how easy."
Kelly posted the purchase on his Facebook page. He next plans to sell the assault rifle across state lines to see how easy it is to do, and he will eventually turn the assault weapon in to police.
But Kelly says background checks are only part of the answer to better gun control. He says, "Mental illness issue and access to guns is an issue. It's a complicated problem that requires a complicated solution."
Kelly and his wife are gun owners and he says they support the first and second amendment. He says, "I think there are some common things we can do that do not infringe on people's rights."
Kelly says his wife Gabby keeps busy with a week full of therapy sessions. According to Kelly, she has not ruled out running for office again.
When asked if he'd consider running for office Kelly replied with an emphatic, "No."
Isabel Mascarenas, WTSP