ABC News’s Jonathan Karl and Shushannah Walshe Report:
Mark Kelly isn’t taking no for an answer.
“Failure is not an option,” Kelly, former astronaut and husband of Gabby Giffords, told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl in an interview, stressing that he’s doing everything in his power to get tougher gun control laws passed in Washington, especially universal background checks.
“In some cases more than 90 percent of Americans want a universal background check passed,” Kelly said, adding “Gabby will be incredibly disappointed, as I imagine a large part of this country will be, if a universal background check bill is not passed here in this session.”
Kelly and Giffords have been the public faces of the gun control fight recently, spearheading the push for universal background checks. They are both gun owners, as well as high-profile gun violence victims, since the young, rising star Arizona congresswoman was shot in the head in January 2011.
As Congress is expected to take up tougher gun control measures this week or next, Kelly says if it “doesn’t pass it says something, it sends a pretty strong message that Congress doesn’t always answer to the American people.”
“It’s unconscionable that with 20 first graders murdered in their classrooms that Congress would not act and that’s why I’ve got to believe…that something will happen within the next two weeks,” Kelly said referring to the Sandy Hook school shooting, adding that if Congress does not act there will be political “consequences.”
“I think come the 2014 elections I think people are going to remember that, assuming nothing happens here, that in 2014 they will remember that Congress failed to support something that nearly 100 percent of Americans wanted to happen,” Kelly said.
He says both he and his wife, along with their new group Americans for Responsible Solutions, are “putting everything we have in this” and they are “focused 100 percent” on the issue.
“I’m optimistic and I see a path to success,” Kelly said, noting he and Giffords will be traveling to Washington, DC next week. “I know there are both Republican and Democratic senators who are working very hard each day to make sure that this happens.”
On the day Congress returned from a two week break, Kelly also gave his “closing argument” to the Republicans and Democrats he has been trying to persuade on the issue.
“My closing argument would be listen to your constituents,” Kelly said in the interview. “Even in states like Texas, and where I am right now in Arizona, that more than 80 percent of people here in these states, gun owners, members of the NRA. Seventy-four percent of the members of the NRA want a universal background check passed.”
Kelly isn’t stopping there, urging all Americans to call up “their Republican and Democratic senators” and demand “action on this issue.”
“I am optimistic that with the support of the American people we’re going to get this done,” Kelly said, calling the current “dual system” of background checks “crazy.”
“We have this dual system where responsible gun owners like myself, like millions of Americans get a background check, but if you want to avoid the background check you have the option of going to a gun show or the Internet. That’s not a great way to do business and it makes our streets, our schools, our churches and our communities much less safe.”
He says the “single most important thing” Congress can do “to make our streets safe” is to pass a universal background check bill in the coming days or weeks.