Toomey on gun laws: GOP didn't want to be seen helping Obama
May 1st, 2013
08:46 PM ET
10 years ago

Toomey on gun laws: GOP didn't want to be seen helping Obama

(CNN) – Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania blamed political polarization for the failure of last month's background check compromise he reached with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, saying some in his party simply voted against the measure to prevent the president from winning a legislative victory.

"In the end, it didn't pass because we're so politicized. There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it," Toomey said.

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"The toughest thing to do in politics is to do the right thing when your supporters think the right thing is something else," he added.

His comments came in an interview Tuesday with a roundtable of Digital First Media editors in the offices of the Times Herald newspaper in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

According to the editors at the meeting, Toomey clarified his comment, saying he meant to say Republicans in general, not just his GOP colleagues in the Senate.

Toomey was one of four Republicans who voted on a measure to expand the background check system so that it covers private sales at gun shows and online. Five Democrats voted against the proposal (including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who voted no so he could bring the bill back up later).

In a 54-46 vote, the measure failed to reach the 60 votes needed to move forward in the Senate. Along with the background checks legislation, a ban on assault weapons also went down in defeat.

President Barack Obama said Tuesday in a news conference that he suspected there were Republican members in Congress who vote against their instincts for political purposes.

"Their base thinks that compromise with me is somehow a betrayal. They're worried about primaries. And I understand all that. And we're going to try to do everything we can to create a permission structure for them to be able to do what's going to be best for the country," he said. "But it's going to take some time."

The president and gun control advocates chided lawmakers for failing to pass the proposal, the only one that had a real shot of passing among the slew of gun proposals brought forward in the wake of the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

While Obama, Reid and gun control groups have vowed to keep up the pressure and bring the legislation back for a vote down the road, Toomey expressed doubt that a second vote will happen soon.

"Reid could bring it up for a vote at any time, but we need five people to change their minds," Toomey said.

"It's a pretty heavy lift to get five senators to change their mind on a big issue like this," he added. "It's not likely to happen any time soon. I hope people will reconsider over time."

His comments sounded less enthusiastic compared with those made by Manchin. The senator from West Virginia said Sunday he believes the measure is still alive and together they can persuade enough lawmakers to support it.

"I truly believe if we have time to sell the bill, and people read the bill," it will gain support, Manchin said. "I'm willing to go anywhere in this country, I'm going to debate anybody on this issue, read the bill and you tell me what you don't like."

- CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Filed under: Gun control • Gun rights • Joe Manchin • Pat Toomey
soundoff (555 Responses)
  1. Patrick in Wisconsin

    Good God, it's amazing to see that Republicans are still walking these days. After shooting themselves in the foot so many times, I'm surprised they're neither in wheelchairs nor dead by lead poisoning yet.

    May 2, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  2. norb

    do you really believe that background checks would have prevented ANY of those school shootings – None of those killers would have been flagged during a background check – no previous records etc.
    So we should have no limits on gun sales? None whatsoever? Sorry, your myth "the good guy with a gun" certainly doesn't work. As to your denial of straw buyers and gun shows- what do you think Bush's "gunwalking" programs and the later Fast and Furious were about? TRACKING guns to criminals.


    Nice Try - Fast and Furious "gun walking" was under Obama not Bush! In fact Obama's fast and furious undid the relationships that had been built under Bush with Mexico. Sullivan(ATF director under Bush) - gun walking was never approved and implemented under his watch - like it was under Holder.

    Bigger question - How is background checks going to help the illegal sale of guns coming up from Mexico?

    Less than 5% of criminal guns come from private gun show sales! 30% or maybe even more come from FFL(federal firearm licensees)!

    Here are several problems with the mandatory background checks:

    1. NICS, the background check system, is not fully funded:
    2. Many states do not report data to NICS(mental or felony)
    3. The Justice Department doesn't prosecute background check fraud:(1% prosecuted under current administration)
    4. NICS doesn't address illegal gun trafficking(gunwalking)
    5. Universal checks don't satisfactorily address straw man purchases:
    6. Universal checks doesn't prevent acquiring guns through theft(alleged theft - given to family/buddy and reported as stolen)

    May 2, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  3. TheObserver

    It's pretty clear the Liberal Democrats don't have a viable solution (AND THE REPUBS ARE JUST FULL OF GREAT IDEAS), so they simply want to 'CLAMP' down on all gun sales, punishing regular law abiding citizens more than anyone else (ANY GUN OWNERS FEELING PUNISHED? ANY GUN OWNERS NOT WILLING TO WAIT ANOTHER 5 MINUTES IF YOU KNEW IT MEANT YOU WERE SAVING A CHILD?)


    How would Liberal Democrats like it if we said, "Hey, more people die from the illegal use of cars." (CARS ARENT MADE TO KILL PEOPLE, YOU'RE ANALOGY SUCKS ALREADY) So, in order to keep all thugs who would buy a car, drink, text, speed and drive, and violently smash a family to death, we are going to implement an extensive, invasive backgound check on all car sales, even private citizen to citizen car sales, because we need to weed out illegal use of cars, because more deaths occur from the illegal use of cars (AND HEART DISEASE, WHICH IS EQUALLY ARBITRARY) than guns. (ODDLY ENOUGH, YOU MORON, WE DO! YOU HAVE TO GET WHAT'S CALLED A.... WAIT FOR IT.... DRIVER'S LICENSE!) So, in order to save innocent lives, we need to "do" something like extensive universal background checks for ALL car purchases....that is, unless Dems disagree..... (NO I THINK THE WHOLE DRIVERS LICENSE THING IS FINE) (ALSO, ALL CARS IN USE ARE INSPECTED AND REPORTED STOLEN WHEN THEY'RE GONE, OH AND THEY'RE ALL REGISTERED TOO)

    Too easy. Damn.

    May 2, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  4. Tracy

    Unfortunately, it's going to take a black man to shoot up a bunch of white people before the laws are changed. It's sad, but it's true.

    May 2, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  5. SC

    My thoughts..... Can you go and buy an M-16 (not and AR-15)? How about a .50 cal machine gun? Any machine gun for that matter? The answer is no. Are you aware felons cannot own firearms? Does this infringe on your 2nd Amendment right? We have learned to deal with the fact that there are already regulations for firearms, but a background check is too far? Just doesn't make sense.

    May 2, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  6. Heather

    Wake up people!! Cars, no matter the "purpose" – are used illegally (breaking traffic laws) to smash to death innocent men, women, and children far more often than with guns.

    Liberal Dems like to dismiss these deaths as "nothing to concern ourselves with..." – because, they say, cars are for a 'different' purpose – AS THOUGH THOSE INNOCENT PEOPLE REALLY AREN'T SMASHED TO DEATH – seriously, anyone can buy a car. Anyone. No background checks needed.

    I say, if you want to background check a deadly gun purchase – then BACKGROUND CHECK A DEADLY CAR PURCHASE – every car purchase. Full background checks, to see who is likely going to drive illegally and smash a family to death (e.g., DUI, texting, speeding, etc.).

    May 2, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  7. Samantha

    Let's see = guns are used illegally to kill. Cars are used illegally to kill more often. Want "background" checks for guns, because they are deadly? Fine. I agree. BUT, for the same reason, you'll need to implement full "background" checks for every single deadly car purchase, everywhere, everytime.

    Because cars are just as deadly, even more so. And we all know these "background" checks are going to make guns so much safer, right? So, by that logic, we should similarly "background" check all deadly car purchases (every car is deadly). Lord knows, these "background" checks will ferret out whoever may, in the future, intend to drive illegally and smash a family to death......right?

    May 2, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  8. The real Observer

    Hey, "observer" man = get this straight, the car "license" thing isn't a "background" check, is it? No, it isn't. And neither is your idea that "registrations" are "background" checks.

    Further – when it comes to getting your hands on a deadly car (they all are deadly, BTW), anyone can buy a car from anyone else without showing a license or registration. So, you, the liberal democrats, the AAA, nor the Auto industry, aren't taking one single measure to "really" keep cars out of the hands of those that drive them illegally. Consequently, we really don't have a "background" check for car purchases. Not at all. My eighteen year old lunatic son can buy a deadly 4,000 pound pick-up truck from his degenerate friend for $1,200, no questions asked (as me how I know)......

    May 2, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  9. Anthony Ogans

    Whether or not you agree with President approval and performance during this second term, I so admire that he has stayed calm and composed while the very people he has to work with have done every thing they can to destroy him. What an utter and disgusting lack of respect for our leader. They can't handle a black man who is educated and non threatening. He does fit their stereotype of a black man and never has. Obama is working with what he has to work with, a cold, out dated, disillusioned and racist Congress, who just 2 years ago were willing to let this country become a third world country just because they couldn't deal with the fact that a BLACK man is still in charge!! Love or hate him, Obama has my compassion!! Always will!! Shame on the Republicans!! Shame on you!! You better hope and pray, come election time again, your asses still have jobs. Massachusetts lost a senate seat to BLACK woman that normally would go to a white man. Sleep well knowing that fact. You days are numbered!!

    May 2, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  10. Anthony Ogans

    Senator Toomey you have my utter respect!! Thank you for telling the truth!! May you have a long and enjoyable career in politics!! God bless!!

    May 2, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  11. sassysticks53


    So true! It would be an entirely different story if a black guy shot up all those babies. The NRA was once for background checks, until Obama became President, that is. For the GOP it's all about Obama, period.

    May 2, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  12. Be Sane

    To Wake up People!
    You missed my entire point. I voted for President Obama, of course I want him to be President. I was saying our country has not evolved enough to have this good man as our president.

    May 2, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  13. Mike

    You know, Liberal Democrats like to scream "WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING!" – then they offer a silly "background" check, that is really an absolutely lousy solution – are we supposed to believe these "checks" are really going to ferret out those that would do harm to others at a later moment in time? Seriously – they're not magic 8 balls.

    Ohh..but the moment this reality is pointed out, the Liberal Dem quickly jumps to, "Well, then, are you saying we do NOTHING???" as though we're mentally challenged- nope. That's not what we're saying. We are simply saying your lousy solution is lousy and to come back when you have something that makes more sense. These "background" checks dont' really uncover much, and certainly not someone's future intent or potential to mentally snap.

    May 2, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  14. Diane

    If anyone needs to change it is Toomey. We want all checks repealed and not have to ask permission from the gov't to buy guns. A perfect example was the Boston 2011 the FBI did a background check on Suspect 1 and cleared him....they even interviewed his family and cleared them! Two years later he kills 4 people and injures hundreds. Nobody including the FBI can predict future actions any of us will take. The checks are a waste of time and money and infringe on our rights. Another point...when background checks were first implemented, they promised no gun shoes or private sal
    Es so they could get it passed. Now that is not good enough so they promise a registers will not be permitted....well they mean until we come back to the well with new revised legislation and enough votes. We must stop it now and real Americans should fight to get the current nics repealed!

    May 2, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  15. sonny chapman

    Nobody hates like a Repub.;especially a "Christian" Repub. Yep, they really follow the Message of Jesus as found in the Four Gospels.

    May 2, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  16. Wake up People!

    @Be Sane.

    No I didn't miss your point at all. But your point is EXACTLY what the GOP wanted. Most people have evolved enough to see a black family in the WH. The ones that can't are the ones being left behind. We blacks have had to fight for every single right we have. The same rights that are God given if your skin is white. And you think it's ok to give in to these traitors posing as Americans?

    May 2, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  17. Roxanne Lindsay

    Toomey, keep up the good work. We all know the republicans want Obama to fail. McConnell said the right after the election. Vote NO on everything he proposes.

    May 2, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  18. neighborlee

    There is a lack of empaty and downright conspiracy idiocy going on today, along with a HUGE bit of cowardice!, just like the senator from Arizona mentioned. People die, and its not enough I guess, to enact stiffer gun laws, outright ban assault weapons and make sure clips beyond a certain size are also BANNED baby banned. I'ts PURE cowardice , and she was absolutely RIGHT to say so, and I publicly support her in that stance ! I"ll take my beebee gun ( given from father when sick with high fever at very young age) anyday, if it means keeping these ridiculouslyoverpowered guns off our streets. The NRa and anyone supporting them, are pure cowards! Get a backbone people!!!!!!!!!

    May 2, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  19. Johnson Alley

    Noboday hates like a Democrat; especially a "Liberal" Dem. Yep, they really follow the Message of Jesus as found in the Four Gospels.

    And....nobody likes to 'control' others like a liberal dem.....Lord, those Democrats like to micro-manage every part of everyones' life.

    May 2, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  20. Larry in Houston

    WOW !!! some of these comments on this thread are absolutely remarkable, for a lack of better words. I mean, some of theses people are a "phenomenon" maybe that's the better word.

    Hate to be a bearer of bad tidings, LOL – but when the mid-terms rolls around, (2014) the "F" word news channel will be wondering what the hell happened, Just like they did on election nite. lol – – – Maybe when the dems take back the house – they will bring IN the "Rove Math" to figure it out. LOL

    May 2, 2013 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  21. Steve Hamilton

    The Republican Party is self immolating. What an amazing admission by a senior member of the GOP. At the rate they are going, no-one will care who the GOP puts up for a presidential candidate in 2016.

    May 2, 2013 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  22. MaryM

    Thank you Sen Toomey. Your bill will pass the Senate and the House after the 2014 elections, right after the obstructionist in your party are voted out of office.

    May 2, 2013 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  23. John

    Unfortunately, until it affects them personally or they regenerate what little empathy they have left nothing will change.

    May 2, 2013 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  24. Daniel Maddigan

    A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll found nearly half of Republican respondents believe a gun-fueled rebellion may soon be a reality. How can the President negociate with these traitors?

    May 2, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  25. Richard

    The toughest thing to do in politics is to do the right thing when your supporters think the right thing is something else,

    This man forgot he is their to represent the people of PA. If they want him to vote against gun control that is what he should do. He is not their parent. He does not decide what is good or bad for them. He represents them. He votes for what his constitutes want.

    May 2, 2013 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
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