The Washington Times - May 1, 2013, 04:35AM

The daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hochsprung, who was killed in December’s shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn., confronted Sen. Kelly Ayotte during a testy town hall meeting Tuesday in Warren, N.H.

Ms. Ayotte led off by defending her recent vote against a measure to expand gun-purchase background checks to sales online and at gun shows. She said her focus has been on improving the current background check system but that prosecuting gun crimes and violations has been haphazard, NBC News reported.


But Erica Lafferty, who thanked Ms. Ayotte for meeting with her in Washington, also had some choice words for the senator.

“You had mentioned that day you voted, owners of gun stores that the expanded background checks would harm,” Ms. Lafferty said. “I’m just wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the hall of her elementary school isn’t as important as that.”

Ms. Ayotte, who stayed calm during the exchange, immediately offered her condolences.

“Erica, certainly, let me just say that I’m obviously so sorry, as everyone here, no matter what our views are, for what you have been through,” she said. “Mental health, I hope, is the one thing we can agree on going forward and getting done. And I certainly wanted to get to your question. I know you must have traveled here, and I’ll continue to talk with you as I did in my office that day.”

But after the exchange, Ms. Lafferty stormed out, saying “I had had enough,” according to NBC. More than 100 people, representing both sides of the debate, packed a meeting that normally attracts just a few dozen.

Ms. Ayotte is one of a handful of senators to find themselves at the epicenter of the gun control tug-of-war after the background check measure failed to clear the Senate last month. The gun control advocacy groups Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Americans for Responsible Solutions have run ads against her, while the National Rifle Association has run ads supporting her vote.

A recent poll taken after the vote shows a dip in Ms. Ayotte’s approval ratings, and a similar trend has been seen for other senators who voted against the measure, including Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican.

Mr. Flake tried to laugh off the numbers from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling in a Facebook post late Monday night.

“Nothing like waking up to a poll saying you’re the nation’s least popular senator,” Mr. Flake wrote. “Given the public’s dim view of Congress in general, that probably puts me somewhere just below pond scum.”