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Portman Backs Republican Gun Bill, Helps Defeat Feinstein Amendment

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Among the Senate’s most vulnerable Republicans, Ohio Senator Rob Portman stood firmly with the powerful National Rifle Association on the latest ill-fated attempts at gun control. 

So did Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson.

Not so Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, who represents Chicago where so far this year, more than 1,780 people have been shot, leading to the vast majority of the city’s 294 homicides, according to police.

Just over four months to the election, and facing pressure from their Democratic opponents, most Republican Senate incumbents opted for consistency despite the political frenzy days after the worst mass shooting in modern American history. A lone gunman, Omar Mateen, killed 49 people and injured 53 at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, prompting fresh calls for tighter restrictions on weapons. Mateen had been the focus of two terror investigations that were dropped.

Toomey, Portman and Johnson — as they did in December after shootings in San Bernardino, California — supported a NRA-preferred measure to deny a gun sale to a known or suspected terrorist, but only if prosecutors could convince a judge within three days that the would-be buyer was involved in terrorism. The three also helped to defeat a Democratic-sponsored bill to close the gun show loophole and expand background checks.

Kirk, facing a strong challenge from Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, supported that bill and another Democratic measure to allow the government to deny gun sales to suspected terrorists.

“If you’re too dangerous to fly on a plane, you’re too dangerous to buy a firearm,” said Kirk, who voted with the Democrats on a similar amendment in December.

The lone reversal was Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who is in a tight re-election bid against Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Ayotte supported both the Democratic and Republican versions of the amendments to deny gun sales to suspected terrorists.

Ayotte said she is working with Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, on possible compromise legislation.

“To get to that solution, we have to move this debate forward,” Ayotte said on the Senate floor, defending her votes.

Democrats immediately pounced.

“She should make up her mind and not be a hypocrite,” said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.

New Hampshire is home to some of the nation’s most lenient gun laws, but Ayotte’s approval rating fell after she voted against expanding background checks following the 2012 shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school.