STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The attack on a congressional baseball practice was just one of this week's mass shootings. A more deadly shooting came in San Francisco where a gunman killed three people at a UPS facility and then killed himself. The baseball field attack gained more attention, though, because it involved Republican lawmakers and a shooter who had been critical of President Trump. It's not the first such attack. Back in 2011, a gunman shot and severely wounded Arizona Democratic Representative Gabby Giffords during a public meeting. Yesterday we talked about the latest shooting with Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly.
This incident resembles the shooting of your wife in that in each incident people naturally began asking, is there a political motivation here? And what are the wider political implications of this?
MARK KELLY: Yeah, I think, you know, I saw a lot of that yesterday. You know, one of the first things I think we all need to consider is that law enforcement has a job to do. I mean, these investigations take more than a day or a couple days. So I think it's best not to really speculate on that.
INSKEEP: We have had the occasion to cover one mass shooting after another. In the end, it's a frustrating pursuit because you do not know what is necessarily in the mind of the killer who, in many cases, is dead at the end of the incident and can't even be asked. And that leaves us grasping for answers about what, if anything, to do as a society. You must have spent several years thinking about that question.
KELLY: Well, I've spent several years thinking about, you know, how the circumstances could have been different there in Tucson. The reality is, though, you know, in our country today, you're not going to prevent every one of these kind of shootings from happening. But we can - if we work on it, we can certainly live in a safer society.
INSKEEP: How would we do that?
KELLY: Well, in general, we can live in a safer place if we kept guns out of the hands of people that shouldn't have them - domestic abusers, felons, people who are dangerously mentally ill, even suspected terrorists. I mean, if we took, you know, pretty simple and basic steps to make it harder for them to get firearms, we would have less gun violence, a lower death rate from gun violence. We know this because, you know, the states that have implemented those changes have lower gun violence.
INSKEEP: Which states do you mean?
KELLY: Well, states - as an example, like, Massachusetts has the lowest gun violence in the country along with Hawaii. It has some of the strongest gun laws. You know, you have to get a background check before buying a gun in Massachusetts. You have to do the same in Hawaii. States like Louisiana are on the other side of the spectrum with the loosest gun laws. And, you know, the one thing you can pin that on - it's not easy access to guns, it's keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. And it works.
INSKEEP: Do you see any measure that could pass on a national level, that could get past the resistance on one side or the other, and that would make a difference?
KELLY: Well, that could pass, you know, we're really more making sure that some of the - what we consider bad legislation doesn't pass. I mean, there's concealed carry reciprocity.
INSKEEP: Oh, that's where if you come from a state that has concealed carry laws, you can keep carrying your weapon.
KELLY: Yeah, you can bring it anywhere. There's also a silencer bill that - you know, silencers are made very difficult to buy under the 1934 National Firearms Act. There's a move to make them readily available for everybody to buy. That makes the job of law enforcement more difficult. And then there's getting rid of gun-free zones in schools. So those are, you know, some things we will see work its way through Congress but hopefully not all the way to the president's desk.
INSKEEP: Well, that's interesting or maybe revealing about our political system in this political moment. You have measures that you think would work that are not realistic to pass. But you think you can have some success in blocking the other side's measures.
KELLY: Yeah, sure. I mean, that's kind of the way this thing works. Those things that we advocate for, we do get them passed at the state level. So sometimes you see this stuff has to, you know, start with a lot of success in state capitals. And then eventually, you know, Congress wakes up. I just wish people would look at the data, you know, like, real data, you know, and see, you know, in which states do we have the lower gun violence? And then just figure out why. And then it becomes pretty clear that if you keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the death rate from gun violence goes down.
INSKEEP: Well, Mark Kelly, thanks for taking the time, really appreciate it.
KELLY: Oh, you're welcome, Steve. Thanks for having me on.
INSKEEP: He's the husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Now, you may recall that after Giffords' shooting in 2011, some reports connected the attacker with conservative politics in ways that turned out to be false. Now is a moment when some try to link a shooter to the left.
This afternoon on All Things Considered, NPR's Kirk Siegler looks into whether political tension between right and left is actually prompting more violence. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.