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Lafayette theater shooting adds to national gun control debate

In the wake of three recent mass shootings that collectively claimed the lives of at least 17 individuals, gun control advocates are debating what can be done.

In the wake of three recent mass shootings that collectively claimed the lives of at least 17 individuals, gun control advocates are asking "How can this keep happening?"--advocates that include retired astronaut and U.S. Navy Captain Mark Kelly. 

“Eventually you start to loose count of these,” Kelly told msnbc’s Andrea Mitchell on Monday. “It keeps happening because we don’t make any changes in the laws."

Kelly and his wife, former congresswoman and gunshot survivor Gabby Giffords, are the co-founders of Americans for Responsible Solutions, a political action group that supports stronger gun control. 

The most recent mass shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, last Thursday, has re-focused the nation's attention on the debate over solutions to preventing future instances of gun violence. In 2013, the White House released a report that suggested background checks were the first line of defense in preventing criminals and the mentally ill from obtaining firearms.

But, in the cases of Lafayette and the June 17 shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, background checks failed to prevent both gunmen from legally obtaining a weapon. John Houser, the Lafayette theater gunman, was able to purchase a handgun in Alabama despite having been previously admitted to a mental hospital in Georgia. 

"Obviously somebody with this kind of history should have never been able to buy a gun," presidential candidate and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told NBC's Gabe Gutierrez.

Jindal's comments come three days after he refused to answer questions about gun control. "I'm more than happy to talk about this in a few days, right now is not the time," he said at a press conference the day after the shooting.

Kelly acknowledges that background checks are never foolproof because, even after a background check, there are still places to obtain guns, such as on the internet and at gun shows--both of which allow gun buyers to sidestep background checks. "We have a really big hole that we can basically drive a truck through," Kelly said. 

Jindal isn't the only 2016 candidate to weigh in on the gun debate. In an interview Sunday on CNN, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry argued that gun control laws may not be the answer. Instead, he advocates for more guns: “I think that you allow the citizens of this country who have been appropriately trained, appropriately backgrounded know how to handle and use fire arms to carry them," Perry said.

Kelly disagrees, citing the potential risks for people caught in the crossfire between multiple amateur shooters. "That is not a solution--for everyone to be armed," he said. "Let’s figure out some commonsense solutions. Its not that hard to do.”