Nightly News   |  May 01, 2013

Senators face heat from gun reform advocates

Tempers flared at town hall meetings where lawmakers answered questions from constituents who were angry about the failed vote for expanded background checks. NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports.

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>>> now to the lingering effects from the recent no vote on expanded background checks for gun purchasers. after the vote went down to defeat in the senate we kept hearing this is a 90% approval issue in this country. polls show 9 of 10 americans support expanded background checks . with lawmakers now home on break, there is evidence they are starting to hear about it. we already saw that happen to one member of the senate. we get our report tonight from our capitol hill correspondent kelly o'donnell.

>> reporter: senator kelly ayts has done 22 town meetings . but this was different.

>> they may work for you, but --

>> reporter: home in new hampshire tuesday after her no vote on expanded background checks for gun sales.

>> mental health is the one thing i hope we can agree on going forward.

>> reporter: critics call her position a political disconnect.

>> she wasn't voting for what the people had decided they wanted. she voted for the republican nra party line .

>> reporter: in another politically charged moment summer 2009 , town hall meetings became a potent tool. then it was health care reform . the late arlen specter came under attack.

>> your cronies in the government do this kind of stuff all the time.

>> reporter: but are lawmakers facing that kind of heat over gun reform? like ayott, also a no vote, jeff flick from arizona took to facebook to acknowledge his sudden drop in voter approval. given the dim view of of the congress in general that probably puts me somewhere just below pond scum .

>> why didn't she listen to us in new hampshire.

>> reporter: the nra is offering support.

>> kelly had the courage to oppose misguided gun control laws that would not have prevented sandy hook .

>> reporter: a mother drove four hours.

>> i wonder why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn't as important.

>> i'm obviously so sorry. everyone here no matter what our views here for what you have been through.

>> reporter: tonight her advisers tell me they think the meetings were more cordial than you might expect. they say the senator is open to constructive step that is the parties could work on. they don't think there is enough political momentum to bring up the issue again soon with hot topics coming up like immigration reform . brian.

>> kelly , thanks.