Senators stung by voting against gun control
WASHINGTON - While gun control advocates were crestfallen two weeks ago when U.S. President Barack Obama's package of modest gun control proposals failed to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, there are signs that equally peeved Americans are ready to punish lawmakers who voted against the package.
Senators from a handful of traditionally gun-friendly states -- Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire and Ohio -- have all seen their standings in public opinion polls slide since they voted down the initiatives aimed at expanding background checks on potential gun purchasers earlier this month.
Arizona's Jeff Flake is facing the fiercest backlash.
The senator -- under fire for assuring the mother of a shooting victim in Aurora, Colo., that he'd support the legislation, then voting against it -- now has the support of a mere 32 per cent of voters in a state with some of the most relaxed gun laws in the country, according to a new Public Policy Polling survey.
Fifty-two per cent said they'd be less likely to vote for the six-term lawmaker in future elections because of his stance on background checks.
Flake's abysmal numbers make him the least popular senator in the polling firm's history. Public Policy Polling said he's now dethroned Kentucky's Mitch McConnell as America's least favourite senator.
But he's not alone in taking a drubbing on gun control.
Fellow senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Ohio's Rob Portman, Nevada's Dean Heller and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich have all seen their approval ratings drop following the Senate vote.
"The background checks vote is a rare one that really is causing these senators trouble back home," Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, said in a statement.
"These results make it pretty clear that this issue could be a serious liability for the senators who opposed overwhelmingly popular background checks in the Senate vote earlier this month."
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, meantime, says he hasn't given up on his background checks bill, co-authored with Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Toomey's approval ratings in his home state of Pennsylvania, incidentally, have soared since his bipartisan attempts to push through the legislation.
"I'm willing to go anywhere in this country, I'm going to debate anybody on this issue to read the bill and you tell me what you don't like,'" Manchin, a West Virginia lawmaker, said in a weekend interview as he vowed to bring the legislation back to the Senate floor.
Gun control has been in the spotlight in the United States ever since the horrific mass shooting of 26 people -- 20 of them first graders -- in small-town Connecticut last December by a troubled 20-year-old man toting his mother's assault rifle. …