Following 'Tree of Life' anniversary, Toomey renews background check debate
WASHINGTON, D.C. - After eleven people were killed in a shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue in Oct. 2018, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) renewed his push for comprehensive background checks.
It’s been a long process that now – one year later – has him urging his Republican colleagues to reconsider the issue.
“I’m still working on it,” Toomey told reporters last week. “I’m still in conversations with folks at the White House.”
Those talks come months after Toomey served as the leading Republican lawmaker in bipartisan talks with President Donald Trump this summer. But now, Toomey fears the impeachment inquiry could be a distraction from getting other legislation through Congress.
“It does further polarize and it makes legislating more difficult,” Toomey said. “But that’s not a reason to give up.”
Progressive gun policy experts here in Washington aren’t giving up, either. Chelsea Parsons, vice president of gun violence prevention policy at the Center for American Progress, believes Congress will resume those talk once the inquiry ends. The main reason: gun control has become a hot topic in the 2020 campaign. Approximately 89 percent of Americans support expanding background checks to private sales and gun show transactions, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released in Sept. 2019. Nearly 8-in-10 Republicans support both expanded background checks and “red flag” laws, which would take guns away from people who pose a threat to themselves or others, the poll adds.
“You have members of Congress really leaning in on this issue, even in districts that tend to be more conservative,” Parsons explained.
A big reason for that is the grassroots effort across the country, not just the big lobby groups in Washington, according to Parsons.
“That has really helped drive the political change and the politics of this issue,” she said.
That is also a voice Toomey is hearing, from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and everywhere in between as he remembers the Tree of Life shooting and the victims one year later.
“Our hearts go out to the families who still are suffering from that, the survivors who still carry the wounds,” Toomey said.