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Rep. Mike Thompson, Mark Kelly talk gun control at Napa shooting range

  • U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, left, hands ammunition to retired Navy captain, combat pilot and space shuttle commander Mark Kelly on Friday as Kelly prepares to shoot clay pigeons with other gun owners at the Napa Police shooting range. (KENT PORTER / PD)

Just because his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was nearly killed in a mass shooting, doesn't mean Mark Kelly hates guns.

On the contrary.

The retired astronaut and Navy captain owns a small arsenal of pistols and rifles.

Rep. Mike Thompson And Mark Kelly In Napa

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Kelly demonstrated his fondness for firearms at a gun range in Napa on Friday. He slipped two red shells into a double-barrel shotgun, raised it to his shoulder and yelled, “Pull!”

He fired once, shattering a bright orange disc as it sailed through the air.

“It's nice when you hit it,” Kelly said. “It's not fun when you miss. It's like getting a gutter ball.”

The unlikely marksman, who along with his wife is a leading advocate for gun control, has thrown his support behind a bill co-authored by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, extending background checks to all gun sales, including guns sold at shows and via the Internet.

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Thompson, an avid hunter who invited Kelly shooting, said the legislation will help keep guns from falling into the hands of criminals, terrorists and deranged people like Jared Loughner, who shot Giffords and 18 other people in 2011. Six people died in the incident.

Thompson said the legislation is not meant to infringe on Second Amendment rights and won't result in government intrusion.

It will merely require anyone buying a gun to to be screened, which could take as little as two minutes, he said.

“Ninety-five percent of the population believes we should have background checks,” said Thompson. “It will save lives.”

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However, an identical measure failed earlier this year in the Senate when it didn't receive enough Republican votes. It was unclear whether Thompson's legislation, co-authored by Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., would fare better.

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