Sen. Toomey Part of Effort to Expand Gun Background Checks
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is part of a bipartisan effort to apply existing background checks to more kinds of firearm purchases.
The legislation was hammered out by Toomey, Pennsylvania's junior U.S. senator, and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, both of whom have strong ties with the National Rifle Association.
"Common ground is found I think based on the proposition that criminals and mentally ill people shouldn’t have guns," he said. "And I don’t think that should be a controversial idea."
Toomey said his amendment would expand background checks to purchases of firearms at gun shows and online, but would not require record keeping by private citizens and would include exceptions for gun transfers between family members and private citizens.
"If a dad wants to give as a gift a gun to his son, I don’t think a background check should be required for that," Toomey said. "If a neighbor wants to sell his shotgun to you know his next door neighbor for 30 years, I don’t think we need a background check on that."
Toomey said he still opposes banning military-style semi-automatic rifles as well as high capacity magazines.
In Harrisburg, state House lawmakers were tracking Toomey’s announcement as well.
Seventy five House Republicans sent the senator a letter urging him to withdraw the amendment. Meanwhile, House Democrats renewed their call for passage of a state proposal similar to Toomey’s drafted legislation. The state House proposal has just two Republican supporters in the GOP-controlled chamber.
Democratic state Rep. Steve Santasiero of Bucks County said he’s still pushing for a state proposal regardless of the apparent deal in Washington to extend background checks nationally.
"We have to be focused on what we can do here in Pennsylvania just like those other states have done and do our best to get this legislation passed," he said. "If ultimately a very similar piece of legislation is passed at the federal level, then I think we’ll be very happy about that."
Santasiero said a state proposal to extend background checks to gun show sales of long-barrel guns and military-style semi-automatic rifles is a starting point for tamping down gun violence.
"We have to start out with something that we think would be an easier goal, hopefully then build on that later," he said.