Toomey says Pittsburgh gun law is 'not a good direction,' talks new gun safety bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Guns and gun safety have been the talk of Pennsylvania politics throughout the week.
On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey says he does not agree with the controversial assault weapons ban passed by Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday, saying the decision is “not a good direction” for common sense gun safety and reform.
The statement from Toomey, a Republican, comes one week after he introduced bipartisan gun safety legislation with Sen. Christopher Coons, a Democrat from Delaware.
The Pittsburgh law would make it "unlawful to manufacture, sell, purchase, transport, carry, store or otherwise hold in one’s possession an assault weapon within the city."
Toomey cited legal concerns of city council’s decision, which Pittsburgh City Council approved by a 6-3 vote. His concern is explained under Pennsylvania Statute, which states “No county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth."
“I don’t agree with the idea of banning categories of very popular and widely-owned firearms,” Toomey said. “To decide that if you paint it black and call it an assault rifle that we’re going to make it illegal, that accomplishes nothing constructive.”
The legislation also allows courts to take weapons from people considered to be a risk.
Council passed the law Tuesday in response to the shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue in Oct. 2018 that killed 11 people and injured 7 more. Gun rights supporters are already vowing to take the city to court over the new law.
Like most senators from purple states, Toomey is working to find a balance that will reduce gun violence without infringing on 2nd Amendment rights. One of those ways, he says, is through new legislation introduced last week. It would require federal authorities to alert state law enforcement within 24 hours when individuals "lie and try" to purchase firearms.
Federal officials are notified when someone who is prohibited from buying a gun tries to do so, but fails a background check. Often times, that breaks state law, but the cases are never prosecuted. Thirty-seven and the District of Columbia rely on federal background checks and right now, are not always told when someone gets caught in the “lie and try” scheme.
“If you think about, it’s probably not a bad idea to have someone take a look,” Toomey said. “This is a person who has been convicted probably of a violent crime, they’re trying to buy a gun. We might want to look into this.”
"We have seen too many tragic instances when an individual who should not have been able to obtain a gun used one to commit horrible crimes," Coons said in a statement.
Toomey is one of the few Republicans in either chamber to offer any type of gun control or gun safety legislation. Heading into 2019, there was talk of reintroducing what became known as the “Manchin-Toomey bill”, a bipartisan plan with West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin calling for enhanced federal background checks on firearms. Toomey introduced the bill again at the end of the last Congress with hopes of picking up supporters heading into this year and gaining momentum in the newly-elected Democratic-controlled House.
Toomey said Thursday there currently are no plans to reintroduce his legislation due largely to a lack of Republican support in the GOP-controlled Senate.