Sen. Toomey addresses gun compromise

Sen. Pat Toomey

April 12, 2013 3:06:59 PM PDT
Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey is speaking out about the deal he reached that will change gun laws across the country.

In an exclusive interview, Toomey, a Republican, talked about this compromise plan with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to beef up background checks on gun purchasers. His plan would expand checks at gun shows and for internet.

"I'll be the first to acknowledge that the expansion of background checks that I'm advocating is no panacea. A determined criminal can still get a gun," Toomey said.

Toomey is now going to try and sell it to anti-gun control forces, saying he's not even sure it will survive in the Senate, much less the GOP controlled House of Representatives.

"It's not gun control to try and keep guns out of the hands of people who aren't supposed to have them in the first place," Toomey said.

The gun debate rages, with the NRA saying the availability of high-powered weapons isn't to blame. Advocates say the Toomey plan is a start, but hardly enough to make society any safer. Toomey says there are plenty of laws on the books, but they need more juice.

"We have a system now where these people - criminals, dangerously mentally ill people - can buy firearms without so much as anyone checking to see if they ought to be. By the way, it's illegal for them to have them," said Toomey.

It was hyped as a major pivot for Toomey, who got $1.5 million in his campaigh war chest from the National Rifle Association. Toomey has drawn vitriol from gun rights groups, with some calling him a sellout who is trying to position himself for a reelection bid in 2016.

In Pennsylvania, Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 1 million. Toomey knows he'll need some votes from the suburban moderates and independents to hold onto his seat.

"This has nothing to do with with 2016," Toomey said. "2016 is a long way from now."

For Toomey, this gun check compromise might not be that politicall risky. The notion is that the NRA and other conservative groups have no place to go anyway when he runs for reelection against a Democrat.