Sen. Max Baucus couldn't catch a break yesterday. Mere hours after he made headlines for a string of critical comments made during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the Affordable Care Act, the six-term Democrat again stoked tempers when he voted against a measure to expand background checks on gun purchases. The issue arose during a vote on the so-called Manchin-Toomey amendment, which fell just six votes short of the 60 votes it needed to move forward in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Jon Tester voted in favor of the proposal.
Advocates for increased gun control here in Montana were quick to criticize Baucus' position. Nancy de Pastino, founder of the state chapter of Moms Demand Action and the nonprofit's regional manager for the north central United States, fired off an email to a Baucus staffer this morning stating she was "sincerely disappointed" in the Senator's vote. She later shared the content of her message with the Indy.
"I'm incredibly disappointed," de Pastino wrote, "and if [Baucus] can't do something to resurrect common sense gun violence solutions by the summer recess, he has lost my vote and the votes of all Moms Demanding Action. The Senators who voted no on the Toomey-Manchin compromise yesterday are going to pay at the polls."
Baucus' office shared several comments from the Senator explaining his reasoning. Baucus acknowledged that "recent tragedies have shaken all of us, and everyone wants to do their part to protect our children and communities from violence of all kinds." He added he's heard "from thousands of Montanans" on question of universal background checks, "and it is clear that Montanans overwhelmingly did not support restricting the Second Amendment."
According to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted nationwide earlier this month, 53 percent of gun owners believe expanded background checks could lead to confiscation of legally owned firearms. However, that same poll found that 91 percent of Americans—including 88 percent of households with guns—support the concept of universal background checks.
Yet Baucus maintains the Manchin-Toomey amendment wasn't the right fix, with his office citing strikingly low prosecution rates stemming from background checks in recent years. "We aren't doing a good enough job enforcing the laws that are already on the books," Baucus said in a statement today. “We need real solutions that will actually make our communities safer. That is why I supported funding school safety and mental health care resources, and investing in a comprehensive study to help us understand why what causes violent tragedies like the ones we’ve seen. The bill I supported also requires the Department of Justice to take a good, hard look at how they can use the tools they already have to keep guns away from criminals.”