While top House and Senate recipients of National Rifle Association’s NRA Political Victory Fund PAC have mostly towed the line organization’s extreme opposition to any gun violence prevention measures, ten Senators who have received heavy financial backing from the NRA have bucked the group in light of the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Ten Senators have received more than $10,000 from the NRA’s political action committee over their Congressional careers, yet have at least expressed an openness to some new common-sense gun laws. They include:
1. SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ) — AT LEAST $33,200
McCain said last month that while he would not support bans on assault weapons or high capacity magazines, he was open to expanding background checks: “If there are improvements that need to be made, as I said, to keep these weapons out of the hands of criminals, I’m sure all Americans, including the NRA, would agree with them, I would think.”
2. SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA) — AT LEAST $27,250
Toomey said last month: “Second Amendment rights are important to many Pennsylvanians and must be protected, but there may be areas of agreement with the White House that can be addressed to improve public safety.” Reports suggest he is also open to stricter background checks.
3. SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT) — AT LEAST $27,250
4. SEN. DEAN HELLER (R-NV) — AT LEAST $21,350
Last week, Heller endorsed expanded background checks, saying: “I think it’s a reasonable step forward.”
5. SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV) — AT LEAST $19,900
Last week, Reid expressed support for expanding background checks and said gun-magazine limits were “definitely something we have to take a look at.” He also promised to use his position as Senate Majority Leader to bring gun violence prevention measures to the Senate floor.
6. SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R-AZ) — AT LEAST $18,400
Last week, Flake reiterated his support for expanded background checks, saying: “All of us, Republicans and Democrats, have recognized that we need more effective and broader background checks than we have in the past.”
7. SEN. TOM COBURN (R-OK) — AT LEAST $17,850
Coburn is part of a bipartisan group of four Senators working to tighten background checks. He noted that “the whole goal is to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and criminals.”
8. SEN. TIM JOHNSON (D-SD) — AT LEAST $16,250
Johnson said last month at a press conference that “one size doesn’t fit all” states for gun laws, but agreed that clip size makes some difference in preventing mass shootings and that a package of approaches should be considered. He has indicated a willingness to expand background checks as well.
9. SEN. JOE DONNELLY (D-IN) — AT LEAST $13,900
Donnelly said last month: “In 2007, just weeks after 32 people at Virginia Tech were murdered by a single gunman, Democrats and Republicans came together to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is used to check the backgrounds of most prospective gun buyers. That system still does not work as well as it should and should be examined again in the coming weeks.”
10. SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV) — AT LEAST $11,450
Manchin said last month that expanded background checks are “common sense,” asking, “Why would a legitimate gun retail shop have to go through that, but then the unfair advantage for someone at a gun show doesn’t?” In the days after Sandy Hook, Manchin was among the first to call for new action on gun violence. Like Sen. Coburn, Manchin is part of the bipartisan quartet crafting a background check proposal.
While these Senators may not receive future contribution checks from the NRA PAC, they really have little to worry about politically as a result of standing up for common-sense measures. Even most NRA members differ with the hard-line national leadership and support background checks. Last year’s elections revealed the NRA to be the paper tiger that it is: an analysis of the NRA’s spending revealed that “NRA contributions to candidates have virtually no impact on the outcome of Congressional races.” Recent polling suggests voters are more likely to punish a candidate for having NRA backing than to reward allegiance to the gun lobby.