Washington— Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania who is part of the group of senators negotiating asaid on Sunday that a proposal to expand background checks is “on the table” as talks continue.
“It’s a moving target, if you will, we’re still in discussions, and we’re still trying to figure out exactly what mechanism is going to get us the votes we need. So I can’t be specific on that. … It hasn’t been definitively resolved,” Toomey said in an interview with “Face the Nation.” “But something in the background check expansion space, I think, is very good – it’s certainly on the table, and hopefully it will be part of a final package.”
Toomey and Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, introduced legislation for nearly a decade to expand background checks. But the proposal, known as the Manchin-Toomey Amendment, wasby the Senate in 2013 despite the support of four Republicans.
Toomey noted his long history of working to pass legislation to strengthen background checks for commercial gun sales, such as sales at gun shows and online, but acknowledged that his plan and that of Manchin may not make it into the final legislation presented by the bipartisan group of negotiators. .
“I don’t know if we’ll get exactly what Senator Manchin and I developed a few years ago, it would probably be something different. And that’s fine. There are a number of mechanisms you could use to expand background checks,” he said. “But I just think it makes sense. We all agree that violent criminals and deranged and seriously mentally ill people shouldn’t have guns. So we need a mechanism to increase the likelihood that it will identify such a person and prevent them from buying a gun legally.”
Toomey is one of six Republican senators working with a group of Democrats, led by Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, to build consensus on a legislative proposal to change national gun laws in the wake of shootings mass at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, in mid-May and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, 10 days later.
The killings, among the 239 mass shootings that have taken place so far this year, according to Gun Violence Archive, have prompted Congress to once again seek a legislative response to address gun violence.
President Biden haspass a package that would reinstate the ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines, or raise the minimum purchase age for assault weapons from 18 to 21, strengthen background checks, implement safe storage and red flag laws, and removing immunity that protects gun manufacturers from liability. He also advocated for more mental health resources, an area that has Republican support.
While afound that 81% of Americans support background checks on all potential gun buyers and 62% support a nationwide ban on AR-15s, support for gun restrictions breaks down according party lines, and Senate Republicans are unlikely to support these measures to advance them in the upper house. In the Senate 50-50, 10 GOP senators are needed to exceed the 60-vote threshold for the legislation to move forward.
Still, Toomey said he hopes more than 10 Republicans will support a package agreed to by the bipartisan group of negotiators.
“Hopefully we get at least half the Republican conference. You know, that should be the goal here,” he said. “We’re going to have to be realistic about what can do that. Senator Murphy has hinted at the idea that it’s definitely not going to be all the Democrats would like. We’ll see where it ends up.”
Noting concerns from some Republicans that gun control legislation could violate Americans’ constitutional rights, the Pennsylvania Republican said he believed there was a “place to land that complied with the second amendment”.
“I think encouraging states to have some kind of red flag laws might make sense as long as there’s proper due process. I think there’s school safety provisions, there’s mental health issues that we could address,” Toomey said. “So there are things we could do that would be constructive, that would be consistent with Republican values, and hopefully we get there.”