GOPers in damage control mode after background checks votes

Kelly Ayotte and Jeff Flake saw their approval ratings drop after they opposed the measure

By Jillian Rayfield

Published May 7, 2013 4:39PM (EDT)

After seeing their approval ratings tank following their votes against the Senate's gun background check measure, Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., are scrambling for some damage control, both arguing that they have always supported background checks.

Flake first told CNN that he would be willing to flip his vote on the measure, provided one provision was amended:

Flake said the only reason he voted no was because of his concern that the requirement for background checks on internet sales is too costly and inconvenient, given the way guns are often sold among friends in his state of Arizona and others.

He said under the measure as written, if a gun owner sends a few friends a text or email asking if they want to buy their gun, or posts it on their Facebook page, "that is considered a commercial sale."

Shortly after, Flake tweeted that this didn't really represent a reversal of his position:

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For her part, Ayotte wrote an Op-Ed on Tuesday for Patch in New Hampshire, blaming "out of state special interests" for misleading her constituents about her vote, "running false ads attacking me and even lying about my efforts to prevent gun-related violence.”

“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)," Ayotte wrote.

Since the Toomey-Manchin background checks amendment failed in the Senate, both Ayotte and Flake's approval ratings have tanked. According to PPP, Ayotte is down 15 points since October, while 52 percent say they are less likely to support Flake in an election because of his vote. The same poll found Flake having a 51 percent disapproval rating -- making him the most unpopular senator in the country.

Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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Arizona Background Checks Jeff Flake Kelly Ayotte New Hampshire Senate Republicans