In Turnaround, Flake Says He’s Open To Expanding Background Checks

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) told CNN he’s open to expanding background checks if the Manchin-Toomey legislation is modified to be more accommodating for Internet sales between friends.

Flake said he’d consider voting for the bill if the requirement is altered to ensure that a gun owner may sell a firearm to a friend without an FBI check after exchanging text-messages or emails or posting on Facebook. The senator fretted that as currently written, the bill may deem that a commercial transaction and require a background check.

The legislation generally exempts background checks for private gun sales between friends and family.

Flake recently took a beating in the press after obfuscating his position on background checks with the mother of a shooting victim who was slain in Aurora, Colo. He admitted his vote against the bill harmed his poll numbers.

Update: Flake clarifies his position on Twitter: “I’ve always supported background checks.”

Update II: Flake’s spokeswoman Genevieve Rozanksy emails TPM to explain that the senator’s position on background checks hasn’t changed — he opposes expanding them to new gun sales but supports modifying the existing FBI check system.

Senator Flake remains opposed to the Manchin-Toomey amendment. He believes there were several key problems with this amendment, including that it encroached on private sales. Senator Flake has long felt that our current background check system can be strengthened with regard to mental health data, which is why he voted for the Grassley amendment. The Grassley amendment will strengthen the current background check system in a way that doesn’t restrict Second Amendment rights by encouraging states to report mental health records. Senator Flake is also an original cosponsor of legislation with Senator Graham, Begich, and Pryor that would clarify which mental health data should be reported into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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