(CNN) – Dozens of retired senior military veterans are signing onto Americans for Responsible Solutions, the pro-gun control group of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly.
The new initiative, Veterans for Responsible Solutions, will support Giffords and Kelly’s wider efforts by bringing to bear the experience of military veterans who’ve sworn to defend the Second Amendment and have themselves been well versed in the use of firearms.
Kelly is taking point on the initiative as a veteran himself. The former astronaut is a retired Navy captain, becoming a combat veteran as a military aviator.
“I’ve been shot at” while flying, Kelly told reporters on a conference call organized to promote the initiative.
Moreover, there are guns in the Arizona home Kelly shares with Giffords he said, guns used for self-defense and target shooting.
The point Kelly was trying to prove is that neither he nor any member of his organization is looking to repeal or limit Second Amendment rights, likely because the perception of any move against gun ownership in the United States is bound to incite fierce opposition from the powerful pro-gun lobby.
“We’re for gun rights,” said James Barnett, a retired rear admiral.
Instead, Veterans for Responsible Solutions wants commonsense actions like universal background checks, Kelly said.
These are background checks an overwhelming majority of Americans have said they support, polls show.
Vance Coleman, a retired Army major general, said on the call that he also owns guns. But not everyone should, Coleman continued, namely criminals and the mentally ill.
“They should not own guns and the Congress needs to do something about that,” Coleman said.
The exact functions of the veterans initiative remains fluid.
According to Kelly, some members will be doing little more than lending their names while others will be pursuing a greater measure of activism, perhaps by writing newspaper editorials.
Efforts at introducing universal background checks stalled when a Senate bill got 54 votes in April, six shy of the supermajority it would have needed.
The Obama administration’s vow to fight on gained little traction, although there have been limited executive actions taken since then aimed at curbing gun violence.
On Friday Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pushed new rules that would require mental illness to be treated the same as physical ailments.
Gun control activists and other have argued that not enough attention has been paid to treating the mentally ill when it comes to trying to prevent gun violence.
Politically, gun control has proven largely unpalatable, particularly with the successful recall elections in September of a pair of Democratic legislators in Colorado who helped push gun control measures.
Groups like the National Rifle Association argue that background checks and other restrictions harm only law-abiding gun owners while criminals will continue to obtain firearms illegally.