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Gun control groups punch back after defeat, targeting GOP senators


The pro-gun control group founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and her husband, Mark Kelly, launched new radio ads Wednesday against two GOP senators who voted last week to block legislation expanding background checks for gun sales.

Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), the group founded by Giffords and her husband, unveiled new ads that accuse Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., of opposing "common sense" measures to "keep guns out of the hands of criminals."

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., joins Morning Joe to discuss the defeat of the Toomey-Manchin amendment to expand gun background checks and the impact sequester cuts are having on flight delays.

The ads are significant because they represent the first real effort by a pro-gun control group to inflict some measure of political damage against its detractors following last week's bipartisan vote to block a bipartisan compromise on background checks from moving forward. ARS said it had received over 24,000 donations since the Senate vote, and would be introducing additional targets of advertising later this week.

McConnell is up for re-election in 2014, but in Republican-leaning Kentucky; he hasn't yet attracted a major Democratic opponent. Ayotte doesn't face re-election until 2016, though her race in swing-state New Hampshire will be much tougher.

Proponents of stricter gun laws are counting on public opinion -- which, right now, largely favors expanded background checks for gun sales -- to persist, and allow them to inflict some political damage on those senators who blocked the legislation.

Other groups, like Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which is backed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have also vowed political retribution for lawmakers who oppose tighter gun measures.

To that end, a new Pew Research Center/Washington Post poll released Wednesday found that 47 percent of Americans were either "disappointed" or "angry" at last week's Senate vote; 39 percent said they were "relieved" or "very happy" at the largely-GOP push to block the background checks legislation.

That poll was conducted April 18-21, and has a 3.7 percent margin of error.

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