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Mark Kelly: Expanding background checks will be ‘huge success’

Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), said Sunday that passing expanded background checks would be a “huge success” for gun-control advocates and that his wife was “reenergized” about heading to Washington next week to lobby lawmakers.

“Expanding the current background check system would be a huge success. If we get that passed and I think we will, it is a big deal,” said Kelly on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

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The former astronaut and Giffords have been vocal advocates for gun control since she was shot in the head at a constituent event in 2011. 

Her severe injuries forced Giffords to step down from Congress last year, but she has pushed for lawmakers to enact new gun restrictions. The two created Americans for Responsible Solutions, a PAC to help back pro-gun control lawmakers and policies to reduce gun violence. 

The Senate is expected to vote on a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks crafted by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) as an amendment to a gun control bill this week.

“Both Sens. Toomey and Manchin said one of the hardest things is to get the other members to actually read the 49-page bill. I implore them to do that,” said Kelly. “It’s 49 pages that their constituents support. Hopefully once that gets passed there will be a mental health piece and gun trafficking.”

Kelly said his wife was “now reenergized you know by being involved in something that will improve people’s lives.”

“She’s looking forward to being in Washington next week. We’re going to be on Capitol Hill, we’re also going to be there to honor one of her former colleagues, Gabe Zimmerman who has a room in the Capitol Visitor Center being named after him,” he said. “She’ll be meeting with her former colleagues and we’re going to be continuing to push for the expanded background check bill.”

Kelly also praised the families of victims of the Newtown Conn. mass shooting, who headed to Washington this week to personally lobby lawmakers.

“Statistics are one thing, but real people meeting in a congressman or congresswoman’s office, it’s a real connection to how violence, gun violence in particular, affects people in our country,” he said.

“I think it’s incredibly impactful, I hope they get the opportunity to meet every member of Congress before we come up on these votes.”