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Monday, May 13, 2013

Gun lobby, Ayotte clearly feeling the heat

Greg Sargent: A bit of a dispute has broken out over just how much pressure Kelly Ayotte is feeling over her vote against the Manchin-Toomey compromise to expand background checks. The gun control forces have organized to pressure her at town hall meetings and on the air, but conservative media have argued that the pressure on her from the left has been exaggerated.

It’s interesting, then, that the major efforts to defend Ayotte by gun rights groups and fellow Republicans tend to emphasize her supposed support for background checks. That seems like a pretty good sign of which way the political winds are blowing on the issue.

Here, for instance, is a new ad that Marco Rubio’s Reclaim America PAC is running in New Hampshire. It says this: “Safety. Security. Family. No one understands these things like a mom. Ayotte voted to fix background checks, strengthen mental health screenings and more resources to prosecute criminals using guns.”…

That message echoes a recent NRA ad that thanks Ayotte for her vote, but also says: “Kelly Ayotte voted for a bipartisan plan to make background checks more effective.” Ayotte herself recently defended her vote on the same grounds that she supports.

It’s hard not to notice that the thrust of these defenses center on Ayotte’s support for background checks, and not her opposition to expanding them.
In other words, the message here is “Kelly Ayotte? Voted against background checks? Why, you must be thinking of someone else!” They aren’t even trying to defend her vote. Instead, they’re trying to cloud the issue with bullshit. According to Sargent, what they’re pointing to is not the background check bill that was nearly universally popular, but instead “an alternative proposal, sponsored by Chuck Grassley, that would have beefed up state sharing of mental health data with the feds, without extending the background check to private sales via commercial portals on the internet and at gun shows.” So, not really a vote about background checks at all.

Sargent reports that “gun control groups believe the Grassley approach would actually undermine the overall background check system” and that voting for Grassley’s idea wouldn’t have prevented her from voting for voting for the background check expansion. They were separate issues, not competing proposals. In the end, Ayotte voted against expanding background checks and any other story isn’t even spin — it’s a lie.

But Rubio and the NRA know they’ve got the losing argument here, so they aren’t bothering to defend it. Rather, they’re just plain lying about Ayotte’s record to make it seem like she voted for gun control. This is so not going the way they’d hoped.

[photo by M Bergman]

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