WASHINGTON -- Former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) said Thursday she would have supported legislation to expand background checks for firearm purchases if she were still in the Senate.
In an interview with HuffPost Live, Hutchison praised the background check compromise drafted by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and blamed its defeat on a misunderstanding of what the amendment would do.
"They're both gun advocates, as I am, but they saw that there is a void in the area of background checks," Hutchison said of the bipartisan duo. "And that is that legitimate gun stores do the background checks -- they're required to by law -- and yet if you go to a gun show or have an exchange of guns somewhere, you're not under that same requirement."
"I think just to level the playing field, which really people are not talking about as much as I think they should be, that gun stores do this," she added. "So why wouldn't every person that actually gets money for a firearm in a sale have the same requirement? I think it's minimal. I am pro-gun, but I think a background check is not … a position against being pro-gun."
Hutchison enjoyed an A rating from the NRA during her time in the Senate. In 2007, she sponsored the District of Columbia Personal Protection Act, a bill to overturn D.C.'s handgun ban, and she has been a vocal advocate of gun rights. But the former senator changed her tone on gun reform in the wake of December's elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., raising questions about the use of high-capacity magazine clips and the current background checks system.
During the HuffPost Live segment, Hutchison also disagreed with Toomey's recent comments that many Republicans opposed the measure because they didn't want to "be seen as helping the president."
Since his background checks amendment failed, Toomey has come up with a number of reasons to explain why all but three Republicans voted against a measure that had the support of 90 percent of the American people. He first blamed Obama for creating a divisive atmosphere, before conceding earlier this week that members of his party didn't want to help the president achieve a major piece of his legislative agenda.
"In the end it didn’t pass because we're so politicized," Toomey told the Times Herald newspaper in Norristown, Pa. "There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it."
But Hutchison said that those who voted against the amendment either didn't read or understand what was in the legislation, and simply interpreted it as a broad form of gun control.
"I don't think it was an anti-Obama move … if you read the amendment and if you understood that it is just leveling the playing field so that we know as much as possible … I just think mental health and background checks for people who are going to own a firearm is not unreasonable and is not gun control," she said. "I think the fear was that it would be construed as gun control, and I do not believe that it had anything to do with President Obama."
Hutchison pointed out that Republicans reached a deal with Obama earlier this year to avert the so-called fiscal cliff and are trying to come to terms with the president in many respects.
"I think maybe Sen. Toomey might have been misunderstood," she said. "I just don't think that was a factor."
Those who voted against the amendment are now facing the heat. Some senators have seen a drop in their poll numbers, while Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) garnered national attention when constituents confronted her on the issue at a recent town hall. Toomey and others who went out on a limb to support background checks have instead seen their approval ratings rise.
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