Gun control forces struggle to keep issue alive

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 7, 2013 at 1:18 pm •  Published: May 7, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — Gun control forces are targeting Sens. Kelly Ayotte, Max Baucus and others as they struggle to persuade five senators to switch their votes and revive the rejected effort to expand background checks to more firearms buyers.

With Congress back from a weeklong recess, the bottom line remains familiar: Advocates of broadened checks lack the new votes they need and Congress has moved on to other issues. A few lawmakers who opposed expanding the checks when the Senate defeated the measure last month say they'd consider changes the sponsors might offer but haven't committed to backing anything, while others show no signs of switching.

"I stand by my vote," one prime target, Ayotte, R-N.H., said Monday.

A new vote seems unlikely until at least early summer.

As time passes since the December slayings of 20 first-graders and six educators at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school, supporters of firearms restrictions say they won't let public and congressional fervor fade, as it has after previous mass shootings. They're launching fresh activities, such as a "Mother's Day Week of Action" by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and other groups, aimed at convincing lawmakers that continued opposition would be politically perilous.

"We have all the time in the world, except that 33 more Americans are being murdered every day," said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, citing the approximate average of daily gun homicides. Led by wealthy New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the gun control group unveiled a new TV ad Monday aimed at Ayotte, and Glaze said the group will hold events in targeted states "every time senators are home on vacation."

Others say the passage of time is no help to supporters of firearms restrictions.

"If they don't get something now, when are they going to win?" said Harry Wilson, a political science professor at Roanoke College in Salem, Va., who has written a book on gun control politics. "The further away you get from the event, every day your chances diminish a little."

Lawmakers who voted "no" but whom gun control advocates hope to change include Ayotte and Baucus, D-Mont., plus Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska; Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; Dean Heller, R-Nev.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; and Mark Pryor, D-Ark.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week that a chief sponsor of the background check expansion, Sen. Joe Manchin, "thinks he has a couple more votes."

Manchin said Monday that "nothing's changed," though he said he has had "some real good discussions." The other chief author, Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., said he talked to other senators during the recess but added, "I can't say that I did" win over any of them.

On Tuesday, Manchin said in a broadcast interview that he had no intention of abandoning the fight.

The West Virginia Democrat told "CBS This Morning" that adjustments and revisions are necessary to find "where the comfort zone is" with gun owners. But he also asserted that the National Rifle Association, of which he is a member, has been "rattling the cage" to rally opposition to any expansion of background checks.

Gun control supporters must persuade at least five senators who've already voted no to vote yes — never an easy task. That could require building a public outcry that convinces senators their constituents think they voted the wrong way, then revamping the bill so senators can say they forced changes they can now support.

Tactics being used include:

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