WASHINGTON — Sen. Mark Pryor met privately Wednesday with members of Sandy Hook Promise six months after 20 Connecticut school children were slaughtered in a five-minute burst of bullets.
The Arkansas Democrat remains opposed to a bill to expand background checks on gun purchasers, something the Newtown community supports in the wake of the school shooting. At the meeting, they focused instead on the need for improvements to the nation’s mental health care system.
Pryor was one of four Democrats who, in April, helped block a bill that would have expanded background checks on gun purchasers to sales at gun shows and over the Internet.
At a press conference in the Capitol on Thursday, Connecticut Sens. Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy urged opponents of the bill to meet with family members and chiding those who would not.
"How could they refuse to hear out and meet with the Newtown families?" asked Blumenthal, a Democrat.
"Have the guts to take a meeting. If you hear their plea there will be something that unlocks in your heart that will get you to ‘yes,’" said Murphy, a Democrat.
Standing behind the lawmakers were members of the Newtown Action Alliance, which is also advocating for broader background checks. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was there too and insisted that the background check bill will eventually pass.
"I’m here to tell you we are not going to give up the fight, when Republicans voted against this legislation on the floor they voted against 90 percent of the American people. The fight is not over it is just beginning," Reid said.
Reid later acknowledged that four Democrats also opposed the bill but said the spotlight should be on the massive Republican opposition to the bill. Reid said he had also spoken earlier in the week with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to counsel him against attacking the four Democrats.
"I reminded him, as I have reminded everyone here, to have Republicans control the Senate is a sure sign we will never ever get anything done," Reid said.
Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns spent $350,000 on a television advertising campaign in Arkansas last month that expressed "disappointment" with Pryor for opposing a bill to expand background checks on gun sales. The group planned a rally Friday in Little Rock to mark the six-month anniversary of the Newtown massacre.
On Wednesday, Bloomberg sent a letter to major New York Democratic donors urging them not to make campaign contributions to Pryor and other Senate Democrats who opposed the bill.
Pryor’s campaign has raised just over $23,000 from New York residents this year. He’s raised nearly $500,000 from New York residents since 2001.
Jeff Weaver, Pryor’s campaign manager, had no comment on Bloomberg’s latest effort.