EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

April 19, 2013

Ayotte's vote puts her in the crossfire

Vote against gun reform plan prompts political criticism

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., is in the political crossfire after opposing the president on gun control.

Ayotte voted with the majority of senators in rejecting the Obama supported gun reform plan, 54-46, proposed in the aftermath of the Connecticut student slayings last year.

The decision is one of the more controversial for Ayotte, coming midway into her term.

A wide majority of Granite Staters, in polling by New England College this winter, supported an assault weapons ban (72 percent) and universal background checks for gun buyers (88 percent).

Ayotte also broke with her New Hampshire colleague, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat who backed the gun control plan.

Actress Mia Farrow and baseball writer Peter Gammons were among those criticizing Ayotte’s decision yesterday on Twitter. So was New Hampshire’s Episcopal bishop, the Rt. Rev. Rob Hirshfeld.

“Kelly Ayotte continues to be the voice and face of the right-wing Tea Party fringe,” New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesman Harrell Kirstein said.

Opinions on Ayotte’s Facebook page were split between those dismissing her vote as shameful and gun rights supporters giving Ayotte “likes” for her decision.

Ayotte’s decision came late. She announced her position the day of the Senate vote, so analysts agree people were playing closer attention to her decision.

“I believe that restricting the rights of law-abiding gun owners will not prevent a deranged individual or criminal from obtaining and misusing firearms to commit violence,” Ayotte said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

Ayotte said she instead is co-sponsoring legislation to improve the existing background check system, criminalize gun trafficking, and address gaps in the mental health and criminal justice systems.

Spokeswoman Liz Johnson said Ayotte’s office received “many” calls and emails yesterday from people on both sides of the issue.

“Sen. Ayotte has been focused on preventing violence and strengthening mental health while protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” Johnson said yesterday. “That includes her vote (Wednesday) in favor of the Grassley bill to strengthen reporting requirements and enforcement of the current background system and to boost school safety funding, and her vote (Thursday) for legislation that improves mental health first aid training.

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