Sen. Flake: Bloomberg ads wrong, 'I did vote' for background checks

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is pushing back against attack ads that say he broke his promise to support passing new gun laws.

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"If you are anywhere close to a television set in Arizona in the coming days, you’ll likely see an ad about gun control financed by NYC Mayor Bloomberg," Flake wrote Friday on his Facebook page. "Contrary to the ad, I did vote to strengthen background checks."

Flake is responding to ads from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's (I) group that supports tightening gun laws. Recent advertising by the group accuses Flake of breaking his promise to help pass expanded background checks.

Flake voted against an amendment co-sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) that would have expanded background checks to include firearms purchases at gun shows and over the Internet. But Flake says he did not break his promise because he supported an alternate gun control proposal by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

"I voted for the bipartisan Grassley amendment, which included language from a bill I helped write which strengthened background checks for those with mental illness," Flake continued. "The Grassley amendment also included language to increase prosecution of criminals and fugitives who circumvent the current background check system.

"Mayor Bloomberg can spend millions trying to get me to support his view of background checks. That’s his call. But we Arizonans aren’t easily bullied. The legislation that would have done the most to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them was the Grassley amendment. And that’s the amendment I supported."

Flake is one of a number of lawmakers Mayors Against Illegal Guns has targeted on guns. The group has also begun airing gun ads directed at Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.). On Thursday, Ayotte sent out a fundraising email to supporters with a statement similar to Flake's.

"Michael Bloomberg and his liberal allies think their $700,000 smear campaign will pressure me into changing my vote on the Manchin-Toomey gun control bill," Ayotte wrote in the email, according to CNN. "They couldn't be more wrong. As a mother, I am 100 percent dedicated to fighting gun violence. But I also have the experience to know that expanding an already broken background check system will not prevent a deranged individual or criminal from obtaining and misusing firearms."

In response, Mayors Against Illegal Guns stuck with its criticism.

"Sen. Flake is obfuscating his position by citing his vote for a decoy bill created by the Washington gun lobby (Grassley-Cruz) that would have actually weakened the background check system and made it easier for dangerous people to get guns," the group said in a statement.

—This story was updated at 4:52 p.m.