Sen. Jeff Flake told the mother of a man killed in the Aurora theater shooting, in a handwritten letter, that "strengthening background checks is something we agree on." A few days later, background checks was not something they could agree on, because he voted to filibuster the bill.
Caren Teves wrote the Arizona Republican, Think Progress's Ian Millhiser reports, inviting him to her house to sit in her son Alex's "empty chair." Flake's office responded with a form letter, and then Flake himself hand-wrote one (at right). The senator said he was "truly sorry for your deep loss" and that "While we may not agree on every solution, strengthening background checks is something we can agree on." Flake, like most humans, reacts emotionally when hearing from shooting victims. He told The New York Times' Jennifer Steinahuer last week that he spotted former Rep. Gabby Giffords in the Capitol the day after he said he wouldn't vote for the compromise bill that included background checks. Giffords struggles to speak since she was shot in the head, and got out the word "need" — as in she needed his vote. "I said I was sorry," Flake told the Times, "looking despondent. "I didn’t know what else to say. It’s very hard." Better to say nothing than to mislead about your intentions.
Politico's Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei reported on how the Newtown families had become efficient lobbyists in the wake of their family members' deaths. They made color-printed cards with photos of their loved ones who died in the shootings and gave them to senators. They guilted Maine Sen. Susan Collins into an in-person meeting, making her late to meet President Obama. In the end, their lobbying was trumped by the gun lobby.
Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who crafted the background check compromise, tells The National Review's Robert Costa that he's particularly irked by gun lobby groups who made false claims about his bill. "A national gun registry is explicitly excluded — it’s illegal — but that seems to be a fact that people have chosen to overlook," Toomey says. When the bill was filibustered, the gun lobby bragged about this. Gun Owners of America's Michael Hammond told The New York Times, "We feel confident this will spell the end of gun control for the 113th Congress... The gun registry defined the battle over universal background checks."
Caren Teves, the Aurora mom, persuaded Jeff Flake, but it didn't stick. The gun lobby's argument did. Flake said he couldn't vote for the bill because it "would expand background checks far beyond commercial sales to include almost all private transfers – including between friends and neighbors." That's not true.
Teves holding up the letter from Flake at a protest in Phoenix on Friday. (Photo by Ross D. Franklin/The Associated Press)