Kelly Ayotte Can’t Escape the Gun Debate

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Kelly Ayotte. Photo: Alex Wong/2011 Getty Images

While she still isn't our most unpopular senator, like Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, Kelly Ayotte's approval rating dropped drastically following her no vote on the Manchin-Toomey plan to expand background checks. Now her home state of New Hampshire has become the focus of the gun debate, with pro-gun control groups including Mayors Against Illegal Guns running ads targeting Ayotte, and the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation countering with commercials praising her for having "the courage to oppose misguided gun-control laws that would not have prevented Sandy Hook.”

Ayotte is back home this week for the first time since the vote, and on Tuesday she faced angry constituents and representatives from gun control groups at two (poorly promoted) town hall meetings. Some complained that Ayotte was only taking questions approved by a moderator (and avoiding the topic of guns), but eventually she called on Erica Lafferty, daughter of slain Sandy Hook Elemenary principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung. Referencing an earlier meeting in Ayotte's Washington office, Lafferty said, “You had mentioned that day the burden on the owners of gun stores that the expanded ­background checks would cause. I’m just wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn’t as important?” Ayotte said in her lengthy response that she's focusing on improving mental healther services, and voted against the Manchin-Toomey plan because it wouldn't prevent another Newtown massacre.

Lafferty, who drove four hours to be at the event, wasn't satisfied and stormed out of the room, saying she "had had enough." However, she and other advocates say they won't back off. “I’m going wherever she goes next,” Lafferty said.