Arizona Assault Rifle Purchase By Giffords’ Husband Triggers Outcry

PHOENIX (Reuters) -

The husband of Gabrielle Giffords, who with his wife is a top campaigner for curbs to military-style weapon ownership, has drawn criticism for buying an assault rifle in Arizona, a purchase he said meant to highlight the need for gun control.

Former astronaut Mark Kelly, who with Giffords founded a new lobbying group this year to curb gun violence, said it took only “a matter of minutes” to complete the background check for the AR-15 assault weapon he purchased at a gun shop in Tucson.

“Scary to think of people buying guns like these without a background check at a gun show or the internet,” he wrote in a posting on an online posting. “We really need to close the gun show and private seller loop hole.”

News of his purchase was quickly met with stinging rebukes from gun rights supporters on social media, who called Kelly a hypocrite for buying the gun in the first place.

“What a two faced coward you are Kelly —` it’s ok for you to own one and protect your family but not the rest of us?” one online poster wrote.

The group founded by Kelly and Giffords, Americans for Responsible Solutions, is pushing for a ban on high-powered semiautomatic weapons like the AR-15 rifle that he bought, as well as high-capacity magazines.

Giffords was shot through the head in January 2008 when a gunman opened fire on a constituent event in Tucson, killing six people and wounding a dozen others. She stepped down from Congress a year later to focus on her recovery.

She and Kelly launched their gun control campaign in the wake of an assault rifle attack on a Connecticut school in December that killed 26 people, including 20 elementary school children.

Kelly could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. He told CNN that he made the purchase to have “first-hand knowledge” about buying such a weapon.

“For a weapon that’s so deadly and really designed for the military, especially with the high-capacity magazines, it is a pretty easy thing to do, even with a background check,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.