Fmr. Astronaut Mark Kelly in Sarasota talking about gun control - WFLA News Channel 8

Fmr. Astronaut Mark Kelly in Sarasota talking about gun control

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SARASOTA COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Former astronaut Mark Kelly spent the day in Sarasota holding lectures at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

But lately instead of talking space, he's been talking guns.

Kelly has testified to congress about putting tougher restrictions on gun purchases.

Former astronaut Mark Kelly has accomplished much in his career. He spent time as a combat pilot in the Gulf War, and later piloted the space shuttle.

But in 2011, his wife, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot in the head by a man who was mentally ill. And while Giffords recovers, Kelly has taken on a new mission.

"The status quo, it doesn't really work anymore," he said.

Kelly is pushing congress for tighter gun regulations. He's a gun owner himself, but he believes federal officials should restrict the number of rounds in ammunition clips, and enforce a universal background check.

Kelly said, "I think there are some common sense things we can do that do not infringe on people's rights."

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says background checks are not required for purchases online or at gun shows. The FDLE says background checks can be done in as little as 4 minutes.

The National Rifle Association disagrees with the universal background check, saying most criminals obtain guns by illegal means.

The NRA also says a small percentage of gun owners buy their weapons without a background check.

But Kelly doesn't think this country should just sit idly by.

He said, "Mental illness is an issue, access to guns is an issue. So I think complicated problems sometimes require complicated solutions."

Last week, a bill was filed in the Florida house that would require a universal background check on all gun purchases.

House bill 1343 says virtually all gun purchases would have to be done through a licensed dealer.

The bill has been referred to a committee.

Captain Kelly admits there's no way to fully prevent the sort of tragedies this country has seen recently, but as his wife recovers, he's doing the best that he can.

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