At town halls across New Hampshire, gun safety advocates are confronting Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) for voting down bipartisan legislation expanding background checks for gun purchases. In April, Ayotte joined 45 senators to oppose the measure, which is supported by more than 90 percent of Americans, claiming that she was trying to protect gun shop owners from the burden of running additional background checks for sales conducted at gun shows or online.
But during a town hall in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire Ayotte offered an additional reason for killing the popular measure and said, falsely, that it could lead to the creation of a national registry. The first-term senator was then “spirited away by her aides” before reporters could ask her about the claim:
When another man rose to ask Ayotte to explain why she voted against expanding background checks, several people in the audience of more than 250 people applauded.Indeed, federally licensed gun dealers have conducted background checks for more than 40 years without ever creating a national gun registry, which federal law specifically prohibits. Under the bipartisan amendment offered by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), federal dealers would conduct screenings for private sellers and keep the record; the federal government would not. Then, if a gun is recovered at a violent crime, law enforcement can use the records to track down the perpetrator. All information identifying the buyer generated by the background check would be destroyed by law enforcement within 24 hours.
“I know people have strong feelings about this issue,” Ayotte began. She said she voted against the bipartisan compromise on background checks last month because she believed gun owners would face an undue burden and she feared it could lead to a federal gun registry.
She did not tell the crowd here that the legislation called for a felony punishment for gun shop owners who tried to create a permanent registry.
“I thought the focus should be on fixing the current background check system and mental health,” Ayotte said. She declined interview requests, but when asked by ABC News whether she believed her vote was being mischaracterized, she paused and said, “Yes,” before being spirited away by aides.
The Manchin-Toomey amendment explicitly bans the federal government from creating a registry in three different places and treats the misuse of records for the pursue of building a registry as a felony punishable by 15 years in prison.
Since opposing the measure, Ayotte saw her approval ratings plummet by 15 points, leading the National Rifle Association, to start running radio ads in her defense.