Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) appeared on “Fox News Sunday” yesterday and was asked about gun policy. The Republican senator has boasted of her “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, so it was easy to assume that Ayotte would simply reject any and all changes to the status quo.
But the New Hampshire senator, at least at a superficial level, suggested she has an open mind in some areas of the larger policy debate.
“My background before serving in the Senate, I was a homicide prosecutor. So I do come at it from a perspective that taking away the rights of law abiding citizens was not going to stop a deranged individual or a criminal.
“That said, should we look at improving our background check system? I’m willing to listen to what proposals come forward on that.”
Though that’s hardly an iron-clad commitment, in this environment, “willing to listen” is a major step away from “no.”
Indeed, it hasn’t generated much attention, but a variety of cracks have quietly appeared in the GOP’s wall of opposition to any restrictions on firearm ownership. On Friday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) reiterated his opposition to an assault weapons ban, but said he’s open to an expanded FBI database to prevent illegal gun sales and possible limits on high-capacity magazines.
Grassley’s comments came a day after Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) also said he’s “willing to listen to the possibility” of restricting high-capacity clips and “revisions of the so-called gun show loophole.” Gingrey, it’s worth emphasizing, isn’t exactly a GOP moderate.
To be sure, we’re very far from the point at which a large number of Republican lawmakers announce their support new gun laws, and several key GOP officials have said they’ll oppose literally every proposal that gun-control advocates recommend.
But one month after the massacre in Newtown, the number of Republicans “willing to listen” to new ideas is growing – and in the process, the politics surrounding this issue are changing.