Gillibrand makes the motherly case to Ayotte for background checks

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Gillibrand, waiting in line to buy an apple pie for her son, Theo. (Reid Pillifant)
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After a press conference in Union Square this morning, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said she's hopeful that the public pressure on Kelly Ayotte will cause the New Hampshire Republican to support expanded background checks for firearm sales.

"Well, I certainly hope that she changes her vote on background checks," Gillibrand said. "This is what democracy is about. The people of her state, the people of New Hampshire, are furious with her lack of leadership on how do we protect our families."

Ayotte has been dogged by gun control advocates, and tailed by a trail of national reporters, at a series of town hall forums she's hosted in New Hampshire during the congressional recess. And, according to the left-leaning Public Policy Polling, her approval rating has dropped 15 points since October, largely as a result of her no vote on a background check compromise.

Gillibrand, who was appointed to the Senate in 2009, and Ayotte, who was elected to the Senate in 2010, have developed something of a personal rapport as young mothers in an otherwise male-dominated (and geriatric) upper chamber.

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And Gillibrand, in making her case this morning, returned to that sense of motherhood a few times.

"There's no human being, there's no mother, there's no parent in our country today whose heart is not broken by what happened at Sandy Hook," she said. "And we continue to witness gun death, needless gun death, innocent victims being slaughtered by criminals across the country. And so what they're asking of her is to listen to them. ... There is a consensus in America that we need common-sense gun reform to save lives, to protect our children."

"I think as a mother they are holding her accountable, particularly on this vote, as someone they expect to be a strong leader," she continued.

Ayotte turned down a dinner invitation from the widow of a New Hampshire gun violence victim, according to a report this morning.

Ayotte is reportedly considering joining an anti-gun trafficking bill that Gillibrand has sponsored, which could give her some cover to continue opposing background checks.

"I hope that she not only supports my trafficking bill, but she will also support a background check bill," Gillibrand said, when I asked about that. "Because at the end of this debate, the American people are expecting leadership and they want lives protected. And Senator Ayotte must listen to her constituencies if she expects to continue to serve."