The National Rifle Association is lending its political might to the freshman senator from North Dakota, urging members to thank Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp for her vote against background checks earlier this year.
Heitkamp was one of just four Democratic senators to vote against a bill that would have mandated background checks on gun sales. The NRA told North Dakota’s Grand Forks Herald that they wanted to celebrate Heitkamp’s resilience in the face of “tremendous political pressure.”
Heitkamp isn’t up for re-election till 2018, but her role in the gun debate has placed her in the crossfire of an advertising firestorm: several pro-reform groups, including Mayors Against Illegal Guns, aggressively targeted Heitkamp in ad campaigns encouraging her to vote in favor of background checks. The group, which is backed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also commissioned a poll that found 94% of North Dakotans favored background checks. Heitkamp dismissed the results of such polls, citing the hundreds of calls she’s received at her office opposing the bill—a spokesman for the senator told the Grand Forks Herald they had received 13,000 calls in support of her position since she was sworn into office in January. The NRA’s latest mailer to North Dakota members encourages members to make more of those calls.
The national conversation on guns is expected to reignite on Friday, six months from the day of the Newtown shooting. Families of Newtown victims, working with nonprofit group Sandy Hook Promise, will meet with Republican leaders in the House, Speaker Rep. John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, and Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, in hopes of resurrecting background checks.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns will also launch a 100-day bus tour on Friday to mark the six-month anniversary by bringing people whose lives have been affected by gun violence to 25 difference states, according to Politico.
Requests for comment to the NRA and the senator were not returned by press time.