Senator Susan Collins of Maine has become the first Republican Senator to say she will vote for expanded background checks.

NBC News:

Collins said “I do intend to support it” now that she has reviewed the actual text of the Manchin-Toomey bill and calls it a “reasonable” approach. Collins described the Manchin-Toomey effort as “a responsible break through from two people who have far better NRA rankings than I have.” Both Sens. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia and Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, hold “A” ratings from the National Rifle Association. Collins added she knows her yes vote and support is “not a popular thing in my state.”

Speaking exclusively to NBC News, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is the first GOP senator to say publicly she will vote for the bipartisan compromise on expanded background checks for the sale of guns online and at gun shows.

Collins said “I do intend to support it” now that she has reviewed the actual text of the Manchin-Toomey bill and calls it a “reasonable” approach. Collins described the Manchin-Toomey effort as “a responsible break through from two people who have far better NRA rankings than I have.” Both Sens. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia and Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, hold “A” ratings from the National Rifle Association. Collins added she knows her yes vote and support is “not a popular thing in my state.”

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., worked with Manchin and Toomey privately during negotiations and is expected to vote yes on the background checks bill.

Collins, who is running for re-election next year, said she would not have supported a plan that required universal background checks, including individual sales. She cited an example of a father who gives his daughter a gun for protection when she “moves to the big city.”

Collins pointed out that her state has among the highest rate of gun ownership in the country at more than 40 percent while also ranking as the safest state with respect to low violent crime.

The three-term Republican says she is “being hit hard” and “being besieged by all sides” referring to ads run against her by both the conservative National Association of Gun Rights and the president’s group, Organizing for America.

Reid needs at least 5 GOP Senators to break any filibuster on passage of the background check amendment, depending on any vulnerable red state Democrats up for re-election in 2014 break ranks . He’s got two in Collins and Kirk, while a few other moderates like John McCain and Lindsey Graham are currently sticking their fingers in the air to judge which way the political wind is blowing.

With some polls showing a 90% support level for background checks, and wide support for the bill’s school safety provisions, some form of gun control is probably going to pass the Senate — and by a hefty margin.

The battle then moves to the House where the background check is in trouble and the entire notion of gun control may be a non-starter for the GOP majority.