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NASA chief Bill Nelson urges action after 'heavy weight' of recent mass shootings

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson added his voice Wednesday (May 25) to the chorus urging action to prevent mass shootings.

In a Twitter thread (opens in new tab), the former U.S. Senator (D-Fla.) and one-time space shuttle astronaut said he has been feeling a "heavy weight" following the news that at least 19 children and two adults died in a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday (May 24).

Referring to recent similar mass deaths by gun violence, Nelson said Americans have been murdered "while shopping at a Buffalo supermarket, while attending a Taiwanese Presbyterian church in Laguna Woods [California], and yesterday at an elementary school in Uvalde."

Last week, following the racially motivated Buffalo murders, which targeted Black Americans, U.S. President Joe Biden told mourners that "white supremacy will not have the last word," according to MSNBC (opens in new tab)

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"In each event, lives were tragically taken in the course of everyday living ... we have seen far too much tragedy," Nelson wrote in his thread about the shootings.

Nelson noted that Tuesday also marked the two-year anniversary of George Floyd's death. Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed in police custody on May 25, 2020 after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes, The Guardian wrote (opens in new tab) in 2021 after the officer was convicted of murder.

"We must act — for accountability, for justice. For change, for progress. For our children and our fellow Americans. It’s past time to say enough of the senseless killings," Nelson wrote.

While Nelson cited no statistics in his discussion, Pew Research has found that nearly 80 percent (opens in new tab) of U.S. murders are committed using a firearm.

Nelson is not the only person in the space community pushing for action against gun violence in the wake of the Uvalde massacre.

For example, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk just endorsed tighter background checks on guy buyers. And former astronaut and current U.S. Senator Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) issued a tweet thread Tuesday that stressed that the Uvalde shooting "demands a response." Kelly's wife, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), retired from politics after being shot in the head in 2011 while meeting with constituents.

Numerous media sources have pointed to the divide between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to implementing gun control in Congress. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), for example, is still expected to attend (opens in new tab) the National Rifle Association's annual meeting on Friday (May 27) to speak, following through on a booking made long before the Texas school shooting.

In an interview that aired on NBC (opens in new tab) late Tuesday, however, 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.