Legislation that doesn't address universal gun background checks would be a "mistake," Mark Kelly said Sunday on Fox News, adding that efforts should also be made to keep guns from the mentally ill.
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) is crafting a bill that wouldn't include such background checks, but Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), expressed skepticism.
"I think any bill that does not include a universal background check is a mistake," he said. "It's the most common sense thing we can do to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from having access to weapons."
Kelly pointed to polling showing high levels of support for background checks, including in the states of some prominent opponents to the measure. In Sen. Marco Rubio's (R) state of Florida, a Quinnipiac poll found 91 percent support for such checks.
Kelly had few kind words for the NRA, which he called a "very powerful gun lobby" that had controlled the debate on guns for many years.
But he said he agreed with the NRA's push to prevent the mentally ill from obtaining weapons. The man who shot Giffords, Jared Loughner, couldn't have bought a gun if his mental illness were in the system, Kelly said.
"They [NRA] absolutely have a point. They are right on that issue," he said. "We need to encourage states to include the mental health record."
Kelly said he believed the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., had changed the debate over gun control.
"One thing that is different now is the fact that we have 20 first graders murdered in a classroom along with 6 educators," he said. "I mean, that's unacceptable and the American people want something done on this."