On his Facebook page Friday, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) denied he ever voted against strengthened background checks amid blacklash over his opposition to the bipartisan Manchey-Toomey background checks amendment.
Flake used his vote for a watered-down amendment offered by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to argue that he voted to expand background checks. In reality, the amendment would do little to expand background checks and in fact would weaken gun safety laws. Flake made the comments in response to an ad criticizing his opposition to Manchin-Toomey:
If you are anywhere close to a television set in Arizona in the coming days, you’ll likely see an ad about gun control financed by NYC Mayor Bloomberg.
Contrary to the ad, I did vote to strengthen background checks. I voted for the bipartisan Grassley Amendment, which included language from a bill I helped write which strengthened background checks for those with mental illness. The Grassley amendment also included language to increase prosecution of criminals and fugitives who circumvent the current background check system.
Mayor Bloomberg can spend millions trying to get me to support his view of background checks. That’s his call. But we Arizonans aren’t easily bullied. The legislation that would have done the most to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them was the Grassley Amendment. And that’s the amendment I supported.
Flake has misrepresented his position on gun violence before. He once wrote to the mother of an Aurora shooting victim that “Strengthening background checks is something we agree on.” However, a month later, Flake voted against the Manchin-Toomey amendment to expand background checks.
What Flake voted for was a plan that would weaken gun laws by making it easier to buy and transport across state lines, helping people evade stricter laws. The central solution Flake cites from the Grassley plan — that states would share their mental health records and provides more prosecution of felons who seek guns — is only one step. It still does nothing to prevent people who take advantage of existing holes in the first place, like online sales. The Grassley amendment also would make it easier for some mentally ill people to obtain guns, by exempting patients who are involuntarily committed.
After his vote, Flake saw his approval rating tank. “Nothing like waking up to a poll saying you’re the nation’s least popular senator,” Flake wrote. “Given the public’s dim view of Congress in general, that probably puts me somewhere just below pond scum.” Flake’s colleague Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) is facing similar fire from constituents for her vote with the National Rifle Association.