The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 8:18 pm

Pennsylvania senator lands in gun group's cross hairs

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, has been a typical northeastern conservative. Conservative without a fault on fiscal matters, more moderate on social issues, such as discrimination in the workplace.

And guns.

Toomey represents America’s divide over guns. He was the cosponsor, with Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, of legislation providing for federal background checks, which didn’t get out of the Senate two years ago. 

One gun-rights group, Pennsylvanians for Self Protection, so far is withholding its support of Toomey’s re-election next year precisely because he did cosponsor that legislation. And it won’t back him until he fully retracts his efforts on behalf of the idea.

E.R. Anderson, a spokeswoman for Toomey, said the senator was open to efforts to advance background checks for firearms. “Sen. Toomey has always been a strong supporter of the Second Amendment,” Anderson told Politico, the online politics site. “He has long believed, and continues to believe, that background checks for commercial sales of firearms are consistent with the Second Amendment and a reasonable way to help to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill.” 

Meanwhile, Democrats expected to run against Toomey are having fun with his predicament. Former Rep. Joe Sestak, who narrowly lost to Toomey in 2010, criticized Toomey for not following through on gun legislation.

“Do you want a warrior who is beside you all the time, or a guy who deserts after one lost battle?” Sestak said in an email to Politico. “Despite repeatedly claiming he is ‘looking for opportunities’ to reintroduce the bill, either Sen. Toomey lacks the courage to simply reintroduce it or his true conviction remains the same as when he said, ‘My idea of gun control is a steady aim.’ ”

Manchin says he does not intend to go through the gun-control battles again until he is pretty sure legislation will pass.

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