It would seem a lobbyist’s dream: rounding up votes for a proposal backed by more than 8 in 10 people in polls. Yet gun control supporters are struggling to win over moderate Democrats in their drive to push expanded background checks for firearms purchasers through the Senate next month.As I noted Thursday, two of the five Democrats targeted by the Bloomberg ad campaign have indicated they would be amenable to a favorable vote on expanding background checks that now cover sales by the estimated 55,000 federally licensed dealers nationwide but not private transactions. They are Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.
Backed by a $12 million TV advertising campaign financed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, gun control groups scheduled rallies around the country Thursday aimed at pressuring senators to back the effort. President Barack Obama was meeting at the White House with gun violence victims.
As soon as Donnelly said he could vote for extending the background checks, the Bloomberg-funded ads were pulled from the Indiana market. But neither he nor Hagan are solidly in the thumbs-up column. Their vote depends on the details, they have said. What that could mean is that one or both of them are concerned about record-keeping. That's been a major sticking point.
Many gun-rights advocates, including Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, oppose any record-keeping by anybody on the grounds that it would produce a registry that the government could later use to seize firearms. Gun-control advocates, most notably Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the sponsor of the background-check bill, says without record-keeping of some sort, extending the checks would be pointless.
But Hagan and Donnelly can at least be counted in the "probably yes" category. Four other Democratic senators in red states are still not on board. Follow me below the fold to find out who they are.
Two of them, freshmen Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who is shaping up to be the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, and two-term Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, have spoken sharply against the Bloomberg ad campaign and seem likely to oppose extending background checks unless there is a lot of arm-twisting. And President Barack Obama— who has made background checks the signature element of the gun-control measures he supports in the wake of the 12/14 Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school massacre—may not be able to help much since Heitkamp has openly separated herself from the White House on several issues.
Two other Democratic senators from red states, Mark Begich of Alaska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, have not made opposition to extending background checks quite so clear, but they are iffy.
What is most definitely clear is that no background check extension can pass the Senate without their votes since getting even five Republican senators on board will be tough.
If you're a resident of Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana or North Dakota, please email your Democratic U.S. senator and let him or her know you favor universal background checks for all gun sales and urge a vote for them in the Senate. If you are not a resident there and know people who are, please email them or contact them via social media and urge them to send an email to their state's Democratic senator over this matter.