The intense backlash against the senators who voted to block the expansion of gun sale background checks is already having an effect, as senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) are now signaling that they actually support background checks — despite their votes to stop them from passing the Senate.
Senator Flake saw his approval rating plummet to 32 percent in the wake of his decision to vote against senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey’s (R-PA) bipartisan compromise bill to expand background checks to cover all commercial gun sales. Flake also drew criticism for lying to a grieving mother about his intentions. Flake’s free-falling ratings left him as the least popular senator in the country, according to PPP — Flake himself described his current standing as “somewhere just below pond scum” — and apparently left the senator reconsidering his decision.
On Tuesday morning, Flake told CNN that he would be willing to reconsider his opposition to the bill if it were rewritten to loosen requirements on internet sales. According to Flake, under the Manchin-Toomey bill, if a gun owner emails or texts their friends about selling a gun or posts it to Facebook, “that is considered a commercial sale.”
While Flake said that he wasn’t sure if Senator Manchin could change the bill’s text in a way that satisfies him, he said he hopes that they can come to an agreement.
It’s unclear, however, whether Flake’s complaint is valid or merely an attempt to quiet his critics. As The Huffington Post points out, the Manchin-Toomey bill makes it clear that background checks wouldn’t be required for gun sales between friends and family members, and stipulates that background checks would only be required for internet gun sales that involve “an advertisement, posting, display, or other listing.” While the question of Facebook posts remains somewhat ambiguous, it seems clear that emails and text messages would be exempt.
Senator Ayotte made a similar attempt to explain away her opposition with a Tuesday editorial for Patch Amherst, in which she claimed, ” I want to set the record straight: I support effective background checks and in fact voted recently to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).”