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Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly on stopping gun violence

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Gabrielle Giffords speaks at Augsburg
Former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords speaks at Augsburg in 2016.
Peter Cox | MPR News 2016

Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head in 2011, and after the 2013 mass shootings at Sandy Hook, she and her husband Mark Kelly founded an organization to reduce gun violence, called "Americans for Responsible Solutions."

Kelly says we must stand up to fear and reclaim American values. He wants Congress to establish criminal background checks for all gun sales, regulate the sale of gun silencers, undo "concealed carry" state reciprocity and ban guns in schools.

Kelly is a retired Navy captain and former NASA astronaut and said he has seen humanity at both its best and its worst.

"At war and in space I saw the awesome extent of American power and capability," he said. "But it was frustrating to come home and see how we struggle to face some of our greatest challenges."

One of those challenges is the prevalence of gun violence. On average, 33,000 people are killed with a gun every year in the U.S., he said, with an average of 19 children shot each day.

It's important that we never accept these numbers as normal, Kelly said, adding that other developed countries don't have nearly as many gun related deaths each year.

"The bottom line here is that gun deaths are preventable," he said.

Many people like to use the argument "guns don't kill people, people kill people," and that's true, Kelly said. But that's also exactly why the government needs to work harder to eliminate loopholes in gun regulation that allow dangerous people to get their hands on firearms.

And it's up to Americans across the country to hold the government accountable in making these changes.

"It takes great courage," Gifford said in an address following her husband's speech. "Now is the time to come together, be responsible."

The two were featured on September 16, 2017 at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum held at Augsburg University in Minneapolis.

MPR reporter Brandt Williams interviewed Mark Kelly following both speeches.

When asked about the culture that surrounds the second amendment, which sends the message that guns are there to protect the people, Kelly said that doesn't mean the government shouldn't still regulate firearms.

"The sad thing is, you know we can have it both ways. We can have a strong second amendment and allow responsible people to buy and own firearms," he said. "And at the same time we can address this issue of criminals getting guns."

To listen to the program, click the audio player above.