Flake's Background-Check Problem

Sen. Jeff Flake’s name popped back up in the national news last week as someone who might potentially flip on the question of expanding background checks to gun shows, Internet transactions and other advertised sales.

Both CNN and the Associated Press had stories that suggested Flake was considering voting for legislation similar to the Manchin-Toomey amendment that he helped kill via filibuster in April.

Supporters of the legislation need at least five U.S. senators to flip on the question of expanding background check on gun sales that don’t go through a federally licensed firearms dealer.

Flake’s name comes up when supporters of background-check legislation talk about trying to resurrect their proposal.

The chatter is partly because Flake is close to Gabby Giffords, who has been lobbying hard for the expansion of background checks; partly because supporters of the legislation have kept pressure on Flake by protesting outside his offices; and partly because the Arizona Republican saw his approval numbers (as surveyed by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling) take a dive in the wake of the vote, with 51 percent of 600 Arizona voters surveyed disapproving of Flake’s job performance and just 32 percent saying they approved of the job he was doing.

The same poll showed 70 percent of Arizonans supported the idea of “requiring background checks for all gun sales, including gun shows and the Internet.”

Flake has given the appearance of being open to the legislation; in a handwritten letter to the mother of a victim of the Colorado movie theater massacre that was delivered before the vote on the Manchin-Toomey amendment, Flake said “strengthening background checks is something we agree on.”

And CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash came away from an interview last week reporting: