UP   |  April 21, 2013

Why universal background checks can’t get through Senate

Lori Haas from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and Basil Smikle, a political consultant and former deputy state director for then-Senator Hillary Clinton, join the Up with Steve Kornacki panel to discuss the politics of guns and why the Toomey-Manchin amendment failed in the Senate.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> statistic everyone watching this show has heard a thousand times by now. 90% of americans say they support universal back ground checks for gun purchases. that includes an overwhelming majority of republicans, gun owners and, yes, nra members. and, yet a proposal to close the gun show loophole and create a universal background system died in the u.s. senate this week, falling short, well short, of the 60 votes needed to surmount p filibuster which prompt ad stream of outraged denunciations of the upper chamber . there is a problem, though, with leaning on that 90% stat and makes the politics of gun control seem incredibly simple and incredibly easy. this logic, every senator who voted against background checks , should now be in grave danger of facing a popular uprising in losing his or her seat. the truth is that few of the senators who voted no this week will pay any political price. the fact that they may all get away scot-free. some voted yes may end up suffering at the polls. intensity has something do with this. nra crowd is more likely to vote on guns and guns alone. the real reason is there a huge gulf between the responses voters give pollsters on individual policy questions and how voters actually respond when those policies are enacted. when, in other words, the policies are filtered through the partisan political system . i think you know how this goes. think of health care . just about every individualite them the affordable care act is very, very popular. obama care itself, well, that's a different story. there are democrats, lot of democrats, that probably lost their seats in 2010 because of their party's embrace of it. similar story on guns. ask about background checks and everyone is for them. ask about broader attitudes towards guns and it is a different story. should gun laws be more or less strict? public opinion split right down the middle. the partisan political system invariably distorts tissue being debated and encourages voters to think tribally and philosophical philosophically, filter background checks through this and it gets more complex. saying this week's vote was not an easy vote for many senators. this is not to let anyone off the hook. if we are going to understand exactly why an idea as simple as universal back ground checks can't get through the senate now we need to zoom in real tight. that's what we will do for the remainder of today's program. from here on in, we are going to go one by one through every single senator who voted no this week. all 46 of them. we have categorized them according to the specific forces and incentives that drove their actions this week and that drive their actions in general. multiple categories probably apply for many of the senators and we will do our best to acknowledge this as we go along. you may want to set your dvrs. some of the stats may go by too fast to catch. lori was ejected from this week's senate vote after yelling shame at senators. political consultant and former deputy state director for then senator hillary clinton . we have a lot of names to get here. fortunately love the two-hour show on weekends. we have a lot of time to do it. we will start with one story that we can use as a template on set this up. that's jeff lake. he was a no vote this week on background checks . he is a freshman senator from arizona , just elected last fall. he will not face the voters for another six years. so theoretically there is time to cast a vote that may be difficult and have voters forget about tonight the future. he still voted no. the sort of amazing this about jeff flake is what happened yesterday, yesterday "the new york daily news" broke a story. they were given a letter, handwritten letter, that jeff lake had written to the mother after victim of the shooting last summer and had written his office with a personal me for him -- for a meeting with him and to get him to support background checks . she got a form letter in response. and then flake's office found out what she had been asking. they had him write a personal letter . the personal letter was released yesterday. in it he says you and i -- he thanks her very much for the story. and you i may not agree offering here. but strengthening background checks is something that we agree on. so that letter to conclude she received a commitment from jeff flake to vote yes and yet, when the vote happened, you know, he was a no vote. i guess i'm trying to understand what -- forces are that would have made jeff flake vote no. he's from a state that's sort of a swing state . little bit more republican than democratic but trending on the democratic side. the rise latino population. it is a state with an established gun culture . arizona is the home of barry goldwater . mr. conservative. famous bookin about goldwater pick rick pearl stein. on the cover is goldwater holding a rifle. there is about arizona political culture there. lori, you were lobbying the senators in their offices and you had contact with make's office. can you tell us about how that went?

>> you know, his staff was responsive to us and most situations. and i think that they just tow the party line , rhetoric that's ancient and old. we want to look at, you know, background checks and see and how they are going to alie and who they are going to apply to. we don't want to inconvenience gun owners . you know. i find that just laughable, frankly. background checks work. the system is in place and they are working now. in certain situations and with sales by federally licensed dealers. let's apply them to all commercial sales and categorize and get to those people who are categorized as prohibited owners and stop those persons who are dangerous and do harm to others and get a background check on all buyers. i don't understand strengthening the background check and not applying it in all commercial sales makes no sense what over.

>> quickly, we are coming to the end of the hour. robert, you followed politics at capitol hill . what's your take on flake? why do you think he was a no vote?

>> hi breakfast with pat toomey . he thought there was a lot of misinformation out there. influenced the gun owners pressuring the senators. both democrats and republicans were peeling real heat from the for block in a lot of these states.

>> we are one down, though, and we are 45 to go. we have an hour to go. we are going to get to a lot more names and have a lot more time for all of this. we have the first major category will be coming up. the would have, could have, should have senators. we will name them and why we gave them the label after this. usters extender,