Senator Pat Toomey defended his push for stricter gun legislation on Friday, but admitted, “I lost.” In remarks to grassroots activists who came together at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, Toomey said, “Really, I’m not trying to convince you that I’m right and you’re wrong, but I do want you to understand why I did what I did.”
Acknowledging that the background-check provisions he was championing would not have made a difference in the Newtown massacre, the Pennsylvania lawmaker argued that they were valuable nonetheless, and might have prevented other mass shootings we have witnessed in recent years, like the shooting on the Virginia Tech campus.
To National Review’s Bob Costa, Toomey expressed particular frustration with the National Rifle Association, which came out against his amendment, for flip-flopping on the issue of background checks.
The NRA, suffice it to say, saw things differently. The organization’s president, David Keene, described the Toomey-Manchin amendment as a “30-day armistice” rather than a full-fledged peace treaty. And he told National Review that Toomey, who has served as a leading voice among Senate Republicans on fiscal issues, “didn’t know what he was getting into” when he decided to tackle gun legislation. ”Pennsylvania is a huge gun state, and I think he underestimated how passionate people feel about this issue,” he said.
Though many, including the president, have argued that the latest battle over gun control was waged between lawmakers and the NRA, Keene suggested politicians like Toomey were actually coming up against the will of the people.
The Toomey-Manchin amendment was defeated in the Senate by a 54–46 vote. Keene said he saw the victory coming; he was confident, he claims, as far back as February, when he arrived at a rally in Albany, N.Y., to find thousands of supporters waiting for him on a cold, rainy day. Together, they railed against Andrew Cuomo’s gun legislation — which, as it turned out, proved to be more drastic, far-reaching, and successful than any of the bills proposed on the federal level.