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Forum staff reports, Published April 17 2013

Heitkamp won't support background checks expansion up for Senate vote

WASHINGTON – Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said in a statement this morning that she doesn’t “see a path for my support” on a proposal on the Senate floor today to expand background checks for gun sales.

The first-term North Dakota Democrat was seen as a key undecided vote on the compromise brokered by Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, and Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican.

She told The Forum in an interview Tuesday that she was still reviewing the Manchin-Toomey proposal.

This is the full text of the written statement released by Heitkamp shortly after 11 a.m.:

“I’ve been adamant from the very beginning of this conversation that the focus should be on mental health issues, full and accurate reporting into the NICS database and ensuring that we are prosecuting criminals in possession of or trying to possess firearms. This conversation should be about what is in people’s minds, not about what is in their hands. I commend Senators Manchin and Toomey for working so hard to bring a serious bill to the floor. However, in its current form I do not see a path for my support. I’ve thought long and hard about this, I’ve taken the tough meetings, and I’ve heard overwhelmingly from the people of North Dakota; and at the end of the day my duty is to listen to and represent the people of North Dakota.”

Heitkamp and other senators representing 10 conservative states were targeted in recent weeks in television ads paid for by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the group he founded, Mayors Against Legal Guns. Heitkamp dismissed the campaign, saying she had a better grasp of North Dakotans’ views on gun ownership than Bloomberg.

The Washington Post reported at 11 a.m. the background checks measure is unlikely to pass – despite 53 senators supporting it – because it won’t have the 60 votes needed to overcome the threat of a filibuster.

“The bipartisan plan is likely the strongest gun control bill that can pass this Congress, although it’s far weaker than the White House and many Democrats hoped for,” Politico reported.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., has said he is opposed to the background checks bill. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, the Democrats who represent Minnesota, both support the plan.