TODAY   |  April 14, 2013

Sen. Collins latest to change position on gun control

Up for re-election in May, Sen. Susan Collins says she is being “besieged” by all sides in the gun control debate. She is expected to back gun control measures, which she acknowledged won’t be popular among some of the people in her state of Maine. NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports.

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>>> this week, the senate debates a gun control bill that will expand background checks to cover unlicensed dealers at gun shows and all online sales. the bill comes after a major push from the families of those killed in newtown. many of whom brought their raw emotions to washington last week. capitol hill correspondent kelly o'donnell joins us from our washington bureau. kelly , good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, erica. tomorrow is critical, because we will see one of the make-or-break procedural votes that deals with the expanded background checks . i'm told the senators who wrote that compromise held a conference call saturday to count votes, but aides say this will be tough and it's too close to call.

>> -- were killed by their --

>> reporter: passions about gun rights turn to protests this weekend.

>> we're demanding action on background checks .

>> it is time to act!

>> reporter: from those calling for tighter rules on gun sales to gun owners telling congress to stop the restrictions.

>> please don't attack our right as citizens. we're here. we're law-abiding citizens. and we're being the one -- the ones victimized for this.

>> reporter: following the personal and sometimes tearful appeals for expanded background checks made by newtown victims' families on capitol hill , the president turned over his weekly address.

>> our younger son, ben, age 6, was murdered in his first grade classroom on december 14th , exactly four months ago this weekend.

>> reporter: so far, three blue states have republican senators who will vote yes, including pennsylvania's pat toomey , who co-wrote the bill, for expanded background checks on commercial, not private, gun sales. mark kirk of illinois, who put out a video statement.

>> i'm optimistic it will pass. i will be one of the republicans voting to pass it.

>> reporter: and up for re-election in maine, susan collins , who says she is being besieged by all sides.

>> susan collins doesn't sound like a republican.

>> reporter: nascar and the nra decided to go forward with a sponsored race in texas, despite some requests that it not air on television. we were first to report senator collins will vote yes, and she says she knows that won't be popular with many gun owners in her home state of maine . but she considers the compromise a responsible breakthrough, she says, because it does not require background checks for individuals who buy or share guns privately. erica?

>> kelly o'donnell for us this morning. kelly , thank you.