Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) joined 45 other senators in voting down a compromise amendment that would have required gun sellers at gun shows or online to conduct background checks with federally licensed gun dealers. The measure, supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans, has been touted by law enforcement officials and victims of gun violence, hundreds of whom traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby elected officials.
On Thursday four gun safety advocates, including Christopher Gordon from Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Pam Simon, a former staffer to Gabby Giffords who was shot alongside the congresswoman in 2011, attended a “Coffee with Kelly” event — a constituent meet-up the senator hosts on Thursdays.
While there, Simon confronted Ayotte for voting down the popular measure and asked her to defend her position. In video obtained exclusively by ThinkProgress, the first-term senator didn’t address the need to keep criminals or mentally ill people from obtaining firearms and instead explained that she wanted to protect gun shop owners from the burden of running additional background checks for sales conducted at gun shows or online:
SIMON: I know that you voted no yesterday, and I wanted to ask, is there anything that could be fixed or changed that would make you more comfortable with gun legislation…
AYOTTE: You know obviously I’d have to look at the legislation. I can tell you that just the logistics of the legislation, the Toomey-Manchin one, the way it prioritized gun show checks over retailers. I mean just on a sort of implementation level. A lot of concern from retailers about that their the way they prioritized it putting aside the checking of it that amongst retailers there was a lot of concern from just actually gun shop owners. Which I know is sort of a different kind of group than you guys… [...]
SIMON: So their feeling was to burden others? People would be coming in doing background checks on them…
AYOTTE: Yes, yes a different burden on them, so that was one piece…
Ayotte’s concerns seem misplaced, however. The number of background checks have steadily increased — from 12.7 million in 2008 to 19.6 million in 2012 — yet the overwhelming majority are still completed immediately.
The amendment offered by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) includes a provision to expedite the process. Under current law, if the background check is inconclusive, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has three days to review the check, after which the dealer can proceed with the sale. The measure Ayotte voted against shortens this “default proceed” period to 48 hours for the first 4 years after enactment and 24 hours thereafter.