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Former astronaut Mark Kelly urges action on gun control after Texas school shooting

Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly represents the state of Arizona in the U.S. Senate.
Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly represents the state of Arizona in the U.S. Senate. Kelly is the fourth astronaut to secure a seat in Congress. (Image credit: Mark Kelly)

Arizona senator and former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly said he and his wife are heartbroken by a tragic school shooting in Texas.

At least 19 children and two adults died in a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday (May 24), The New York Times reported (opens in new tab) Wednesday (May 25). The incident at Robb Elementary School is the deadliest such event in the United States since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn.

"I know how helpless a person can feel when their family is impacted in this way. I know that every parent whose kid came home from school today is hugging them tighter," Kelly (D-Ariz.) wrote Tuesday on Twitter (opens in new tab).

Kelly and his wife, Gabrielle Giffords, are staunch gun control advocates. Giffords, a former Arizona congresswoman, was shot in the head while meeting with constituents outside a Tucson supermarket on Jan. 8, 2011. 

Giffords recovered, even managing to attend Kelly's last-ever launch on space shuttle mission STS-134 three months later on April 19, 2011. But she later stepped down from politics to focus on her health and rehabilitation.

Related: Biography of former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly

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In his tweet thread, Kelly said that Americans have come to expect their federal government will "do nothing" after seeing similar deadly mass shootings over the years.

"Politicians in Washington spend countless hours fighting about nothing, but when it comes time to act on an issue that is unique to the United States and demands a response, they find a million reasons not to," Kelly said.

Pledging to spur "action from Washington," Kelly said it's possible to pass "commonsense reforms" to address gun violence that are respected "across the political spectrum." 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is expected to attend (opens in new tab) the National Rifle Association's annual meeting on Friday (May 27) in a speaking engagement booked long before the deadly shooting. In an interview that aired on NBC (opens in new tab) late Tuesday, Cruz called the shooting "yet another unspeakable crime."

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.