The tension at a town hall meeting Tuesday in Warren, New Hampshire, centered around the daughter of a Newtown shooting victim who drove from her hometown in Connecticut to ask Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte why she voted against increasing background checks for commercial gun sales.
“I really just wanted an answer to the question that I had asked her the day after the vote, after she voted no. Why doesn’t my mother’s murder matter to her? And I got in my car at 6 o’clock this morning and drove to New Hampshire to ask her exactly that and again, I got the runaround, no clear answer. So I guess [I went] just in a search for an answer,” said Erica Lafferty on msnbc’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.
The 27-year-old daughter of Sandy Hook elementary school principal Dawn Hochsprung was furious with Sen. Ayotte’s decision to help kill the background checks bill, after first voting “yes” to allow debate on gun control, which was perceived as a small victory for pro-gun control activists.
In an impassioned opening statement, Lafferty asked the senator why she voted against her mother’s death.
“I know that you did take the time to speak with me in your office the day after the Toomey-Manchin vote. I did want to say thank you for that. You had mentioned that day the burden on owners of gun stores that the expanded background checks would cause. I am just wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn’t as important as that. Why is that not something being supported?”
After a loud round of applause from the crowd, Sen. Ayotte answered. “Let me just say that I’m obviously so sorry and I think like everyone here no matter what our views are for what you have been through,” the senator responded haltingly. “As you and I both know, the issue wasn’t a background check system issue at Sandy Hook. Mental health is the one thing that I hope we can both agree on moving forward and getting done.”
Sen. Ayotte also stressed the importance of improving the mental health system at a second town hall Tuesday evening in Tilton, and said the background checks bill would not have stopped last December’s massacre in Newtown.
Lafferty told msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell that her fight is far from over. “I don’t know if she thought that we were just going to kind of disappear after she decided to vote against something so common sense, but I had promised since the very second it came out–the legislation wasn’t approved–that I wasn’t going away and clearly, I wasn’t joking.”
While Sen. Ayotte’s poll numbers have been sinking since she cast that vote against her constituents who overwhelmingly (75%) support expanded background checks, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun violence groups have been financing ads and have pledged to put significant pressure on the senator’s vote against gun control.
With an “A” rating from the NRA, Sen. Ayotte has radio ads from the gun lobby defending her for obstructing such “misguided” gun legislation. But a recent Public Policy Polling survey showed that half of New Hampshire voters were less likely to support her in 2016 due to her vote against background checks.