In light of this weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Tex., and Dayton, Ohio, a proposal from U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey to expand background checks for gun purchases is back in the spotlight.
President Donald Trump called the Republican Senator Monday to talk about his proposed gun-control measures. Toomey described Trump as showing “a very constructive willingness to engage on this issue.”
“[W]e need to figure out how we can adopt the kind of policies that will curb these terrible experiences,” Toomey said in a call with reporters Monday. “It’s long overdue, but this is a moment where we should move ahead.”
Toomey's proposal, which he co-authored with West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, would have expanded background checks for commercial gun sales online and at gun shows. Commonly known as the Manchin-Toomey measure, the language was introduced years ago, after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that left nearly two dozen children dead. It failed in the Senate.
“I think we need Manchin-Toomey," Toomey told reporters. "This is a common-sense, very, very broadly supported measure that would fully respect the rights of law-abiding citizens, fully respect the Second Amendment, but extend background checks to all commercial sales, and diminish the risk that someone who doesn’t belong owning a firearm ever gets one in the first place.”
Such a proposal’s passage is uncertain at best. On Monday, Toomey spoke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Monday, who has prevented many bills from being brought to the floor. Earlier this year, the White House indicated its opposition to a sweeping gun-control bill, H.R. 8, passed by the Democratically-controlled House that requires background checks on every gun sale.
“I don’t want to try to characterize [McConnell’s] thoughts on this, but my view is if we have enough support in the Senate, then we ought to have a vote,” Toomey said. “I intend to do everything I can to persuade Senator McConnell if that’s necessary.”
But Toomey didn’t see the use of bringing his proposal to the Senate floor any time soon. While Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and others have argued that Congress should be brought back from its August recess to address gun violence, Toomey said that if a vote was forced now, the measure would fail in the Senate. He said he couldn't predict when that would change.
President Trump has taken interest in Toomey’s views on gun control before, after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. But action was never taken. Toomey was uncertain if the President or lawmakers would seek a different outcome this time.
“I certainly hope we do,” he said. “I hope that if nothing else, the accumulated pain from so many of these horrific experiences will be motivation to do something.”
Toomey avoided criticizing the President when asked if Trump's tone led to the shootings -- authorities say the El Paso shooter's manifesto echoed Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric.
“It's very important that we assign responsibility where it belongs,” Toomey said. “The people who were responsible for the murders of innocent men, women and children were the people who pulled the triggers. But I don't like going around blaming others for the actions of those.”