Transcript: Senator Pat Toomey on “Face the Nation”, June 5, 2022

The following is a transcript of an interview with Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania that aired Sunday, June 5, 2022 on “Face the Nation”.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Now we turn to Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey. He is one of the senators involved in bipartisan efforts to reduce gun violence. And he’s joining us this morning from Keystone State. Senator, welcome.

SENATOR PAT TOOMEY: Hello, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The numbers are pretty staggering here. There were 239 mass shootings in 2022. According to the Gun Violence Archive, which is a nonprofit that tracks them. Overnight there was one in Philadelphia, three people killed, 14 injured with semi-automatic weapons. What happened to the American people that pushed the violence to this level?

SEN. TOOMEY: Yeah, well, it’s a – it’s a complex, multi-faceted problem, as you know, Margaret, in – in some cases, crime in our big cities has increased tremendously. But there are a lot of factors that contribute to this, in some cases it’s the district attorneys who think their job is to make sure no one goes to jail. It is a problem. And then, of course, we have these–these horrible sensational massacres, where a young man has clearly just gone completely off the rails and is disturbed. And–and it’s a very different set of circumstances. So it’s… it’s a big complicated problem.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, it’s a big, complicated problem. And most attempts to try to create any type of solution have stopped. But the Democrats and Republicans we just mentioned are negotiating right now to get something. Democrats need 10 Republican votes. You are one of six Republicans working with Senator Chris Murphy, he said today, that you are all drafting this legislation right now. It won’t ban assault weapons, there won’t be a full background check as part of it. Is your proposal to expand background checks still valid?

SEN. TOOMEY: Well, I certainly hope we’re going to have an expansion of background checks. You know, Senator Manchin and I have been working on this for a long time. And we tried to establish that, at least for commercial gun sales, there should be a background check. So sales at gun shows, sales that are advertised on the Internet. I don’t know if we will get exactly what Senator Manchin and I developed a few years ago, it would probably be something different from that. And it’s good. There are a number of mechanisms you can use to extend background checks. But I just think it makes sense. We all agree that violent criminals and seriously ill mentally deranged people should not have guns. So we need a mechanism to increase the likelihood that he will identify such a person and prevent him from buying a gun legally anyway-

MARGARET BRENNAN: So for-

SEN. TOOMEY: — and so that’s the idea behind the expansion of background checks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So to be clear, because you had proposed the Manchin-Toomey background check expansion in 2013, 2015, 2019. You’re saying what’s surviving right now is basically a watered down version of that. How is it different?

SEN. TOOMEY: Well, it’s a moving target, if you will, we’re still in discussion, and we’re still trying to figure out exactly what mechanism will get us the votes we need. So I can’t be specific about that. Margaret, this hasn’t been completely resolved. But something in the background checks expansion space, I think is very good, it’s certainly on the table, and I hope it will be part of a final package.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we see overwhelming support in our CBS poll for background checks, which is why it’s interesting that it’s tough. There was a Republican congressman in New York State, I’m sure you’ve heard of that. Chris Jacobs. He represents a district around Buffalo where there was a horrific mass shooting just weeks ago, he dropped out of his re-election bid. After seven days of publicly endorsing a federal ban on assault weapons and limits on high-capacity magazines. That’s what he had to say.

REPRESENTING. CHRIS JACOBS SOT ON TAPE: We have a problem in our country, with regard to our two main parties. If you stray from a party position, you are annihilated. For Republicans, it’s come – it’s become pretty obvious to me over the last week that that issue is gun control. All gun control.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you agree with him?

SEN. TOOMEY: No, I don’t know. I think there’s a wide range of opinions among elected Republicans, just as there are among Republican voters across the country-

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well…

SEN. TOOMEY: — in my case, I drafted a bill with Senator Manchin and advocated for expanded background checks in 2013, as you pointed out, again in 2015 —

MARGARET BRENNAN: – okay, but you failed to convince enough Republicans to vote with you to pass it –

SEN. TOOMEY: -We voted on it in 2016. I was re-elected- I was- I was re-elected without primary challenge. So I think that means something to you too

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, excuse me, I’m sorry, my voice. The president himself has campaigned on this idea that he can be a broker. Does he need to get involved? Or does the president’s involvement diminish the chances of success here?

SEN. TOOMEY: Yeah, the problem is that I think the president could have been a president reaching across the aisle to try to bring people together. But he chose not to take that approach. From day one, he sided with the far left of his party and really didn’t reach out to Republicans. He gave a speech on this subject where he advocated policies that he knows for sure have no chance of being adopted. The Senate probably couldn’t even get 50 votes, much less hold the Democrats to get the 60 we would need. So, again, the chair isn’t very helpful. I think ultimately it will depend on whether we can achieve consensus in the United States Senate. Intensive discussions are ongoing. It includes people who have not been engaged on this issue in the past. I certainly cannot guarantee a result. But I feel like we’re closer than we’ve been since I’ve been in the Senate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you can convince four other Republicans to support you, the six who are negotiating?

SEN. TOOMEY: Hopefully we’ll have a lot more than that. I hope we get at least half of the Republican conference. You know that’s, that should be the goal here. We’re going to have to be realistic about what can do that. Senator Murphy alluded to the idea that this will not be all. Sure, Democrats would love to. We’ll–we’ll see where it ends.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there a risk that the Republican Party will be associated with gun violence, if you can’t get those votes?

SEN. TOOMEY: You know, look, I think Republicans have always supported Second Second Amendment rights. Republican voters expect Republicans to defend the Second Amendment. I think there’s a place to land that’s second amendment compliant, because I’ve been advocating for the expansion of background checks, by the way, I think encouraging states to have some kind of laws on the red flag might make sense as long as there is enough due process. I think there are school safety provisions, there are mental health issues that we could address. So there are things we could do that would be constructive, that would be consistent with Republican values, and I hope we will get there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, thank you for your time today. We will monitor the outcome of these Face the Nation talks. We’ll be back in a minute.

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