Left attacks Baucus for gun vote

A prominent liberal advocacy group has launched an ad campaign attacking Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) for opposing tougher gun laws.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) has bought a series of newspaper ads accusing Baucus of defying the wishes of Montanans by voting this week against legislation to expand criminal background checks before gun sales.

The group is citing a poll, sponsored by gun control advocates, that found an overwhelming majority of Montana voters support the expanded screenings.

"Senator Baucus, it was WRONG to vote 'no' on stopping gun violence," the ad reads. "79% of Montana voters support background checks. Stand with us, not gun manufactures. Support sensible gun laws and keep our families and communities safe."

Baucus is up for reelection in 2014.

The ad, which will run in seven Montana newspapers on Sunday, marks the first phase of a $100,000 PCCC campaign targeting the four Senate Democrats who voted Wednesday against legislation requiring background checks for all firearm sales at gun shows and over the Internet.

Democratic Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) also opposed the measure.

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Supporters of tougher gun laws are hoping pressure campaigns like the PCCC's will make lawmakers think twice before voting against such measures, much like the National Rifle Association (NRA) has made support for new gun control a political liability on Capitol Hill.  

Asked by the Los Angeles Times why he voted against the proposal, Baucus responded with a single word: "Montana."

Gun control advocates dispute that claim. They point to a series of polls showing that even gun owners in the state that lean conservative support universal background checks in the wake of December's shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

A January poll of 600 Montana voters by Schoen Consulting, a Democratic firm, found that 79 percent support such screenings prior to all gun sales. The survey was conducted for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an advocacy group.

Republican pollsters have found similar results. A survey conducted months before the Newtown tragedy by GOP consultant Frank Luntz found that 74 percent of NRA members support criminal background checks on all potential gun buyers.

The NRA, which once supported universal screenings at gun shows, now opposes that idea. The group says such a policy would step on the Second Amendment rights of gun owners.

The Senate background check bill was blocked Wednesday after gaining the support of 55 lawmakers, five short of the 60 needed to defeat a GOP filibuster.