Which senators are gun-control swing votes?

Guess which two U.S. Senators top the list of those most likely to be swing votes in favor of gun control bills?

Hint: Not California’s.

While Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are considered gimmes for such legislation (and in fact are often among its authors), it’s U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who topped the Sunlight Foundation’s swing-vote list as most likely to vote yea. Max Baucus, D-Mont., came up as the Democrat among the swing votes who’s most likely to oppose gun control bills, while John McCain, R-Ariz., was the Republican swing vote most likely to oppose.

“Absent a major pressure campaign to push senators to support gun control legislation, the political calculus points against the Senate passing any reform,” study authors Lee Drutman and Zander Furnas wrote on the foundation’s blog

Sunlight collected relevant data on 26 senators (19 Democrats, 2 Independents and 5 Republicans) whom it saw as potentially conflicted on a gun vote. That is, any Republican who didn’t get at least an A rating from the NRA, and any Democrat who didn’t get an F rating. The researchers then created a 0-through-10 scoring system on factors that could lead to a higher likelihood of opposing gun control legislation, including:

    More contributions by gun rights groups to the senator in the last election (and fewer contributions to the senator’s opponent);
    A lower Obama vote share in the 2012 election in the senator’s state; and
    More registered firearm and “destructive device” dealers, manufacturers, importers and exporters per 100,000 residents in the senator’s state.

Here’s how the list shook out:

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) 10
Sen. Mark Steven Kirk (R-IL) 10
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) 9.12
Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA) 8.71
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) 8.5
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) 8.35
Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) 7.65
Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT) 7.64
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) 7
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) 6.99
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) 6.86
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) 6.59
Sen. Angus King (I-ME) 6.38
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) 6.34
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) 5.95
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) 5.82
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) 5.68
Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) 5.02
Sen. Daniel Coats (R-IN) 4.78
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) 4.1
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) 3.71
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) 3.55
Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-WV) 2.93
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) 1.03
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) 0
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) 0

“Since our baseline assumption is that Republicans will tend oppose gun control, and Democrats will tend to support it, the scores we provide are not comparable between parties. A Democrat with a score of five and a Republican with a score of five, are unlikely to have the same probability of supporting gun control legislation,” the authors noted. “Rather, we offer the scores as a way of comparing between members of the same party.”

See the Sunlight Foundation’s infographic on this, after the jump…


Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.