(CNN) – Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords and an outspoken advocate for new gun control measures, purchased an AR-15 assault rifle in Tucson recently as a demonstration of what he says are unobtrusive background checks.
The retired space shuttle commander wrote on his Facebook page he would turn in the weapon – which he said he hadn’t yet obtained – to the city’s police department.
“Looks like the judiciary committee will vote on background checks next week,” Kelly wrote, referring to the Senate panel where gun control legislation is up for a vote this week.
“I just had a background check a few days ago when I went to my local gun store to buy a 45. As I was leaving, I noticed a used AR-15. Bought that too. Even to buy an assault weapon, the background check only takes a matter of minutes,” he continued.
The AR-15 is one of America’s top-selling firearms, and has become a focus of the gun control debate after being used in a recent spate of mass shootings. One was used in the December massacre at a Connecticut elementary school. Advocates for tighter gun laws argue there’s no need for Americans to own the powerful rifle, but the gun’s proponents say the AR-15’s accuracy makes it safe.
Aside from a measure bolstering background checks that’s sponsored by New York Democrat Charles Schumer, the Senate Judiciary Committee this week will consider a ban on assault weapons that was introduced by California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, which would outlaw the AR-15 among a host of other military-style weapons.
Last week the judiciary panel approved a bill toughening laws on gun trafficking and straw purchases, but on the issue of background checks – which previously appeared poised for bipartisan support in the legislature – Republicans and Democrats have reached some sticking points.
Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have expressed support for expanding the scope of mental health information submitted to the federal background check system used by gun sellers, but some have expressed concern that records would be kept on responsible gun owners.
Bipartisan talks have also failed to reach a compromise that would address the “gun show loophole,” which critics say provides an avenue for people who know they cannot pass a background check to obtain guns through private sales.
In his Facebook message about the AR-15 purchase, Kelly wrote it was “scary to think of people buying guns like these without a background check at a gun show or the Internet.
“We really need to close the gun show and private seller loop hole,” he concluded.
Last week, Giffords support for background checks alongside her husband at a gun control rally in Tucson, Arizona, the same place where an assailant shot her in the head.
The former congresswoman urged lawmakers to “Be bold. Be courageous. Please support background checks.”
At the event, Kelly said his newly formed gun-control organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, was sending a letter to U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Arizona Republicans, urging them to support background-check legislation. McCain suggested last month that such legislation would have success in the Senate.