Jun 6, 2022
Toomey says expanding gun background checks “on the table” as Senate talks continue 6/05/22 Transcript
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey says an expansion of background checks for gun sales is “on the table” as senators continue negotiating new gun legislation. Read the transcript here.
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Margaret Brennan: (00:00)
We turn now to the Pennsylvania Republican Senator, Pat Toomey. He is one of the senators involved in bipartisan efforts to reduce gun violence. And he joins us this morning from the Keystone state. Senator, welcome.
Pat Toomey: (00:14)
Good morning, Margaret.
Margaret Brennan: (00:15)
The numbers are pretty staggering here. There have been 239 mass shootings in 2022 according to the Gun Violence Archive which is a nonprofit that tracks these. Overnight, there was one in Philadelphia, three people killed, 14 injured using a semiautomatic weapon. What has happened to the American people that has taken violence to this level?
Pat Toomey: (00:40)
Yeah. Well it’s a complex and multifaceted problem as you know, Margaret. In some cases, criminality in our big cities has escalated enormously. There’s a lot of factors contributing to that. In some cases, it’s district attorneys who think their job is to make sure no one goes to jail. That’s a problem. And then of course, we have these horrific sensational massacres where a young man clearly has just gone completely off the rails and is deranged. And that’s a very different set of circumstances. So it’s a big complicated problem.
Margaret Brennan: (01:17)
Well it’s a big complicated problem and most attempts to try to create any solution have stopped. But Democrats and Republicans we just mentioned are negotiating right now to get something. Democrats need 10 Republican votes. You’re one of six Republicans working with Senator Chris Murphy. He said today that you all are writing this legislation right now. It will not ban assault weapons, it will not have comprehensive background checks as part of it. Is your proposal to expand background checks still in it?
Pat Toomey: (01:55)
Well I certainly hope we’re going to have an expansion of background checks. Senator Manchin and I have been working on this for a long time, and we’ve tried to establish that at least for commercial sales of firearms, there ought to be a background check. So sales at gun shows, sales that are advertised over the internet. I don’t know that we’ll get exactly what Senator Manchin and I developed some years ago. It’d probably be something different than that and that’s fine. There are a number of mechanisms you could use to expand background checks. But I just think it makes sense. We all agree that violent criminals and deranged dangerously mentally ill people shouldn’t have firearms. So we need a mechanism to increase the likelihood that will identify such a person and prevent them from buying a gun legally anyway. And so that’s the idea behind expanding background checks.
Margaret Brennan: (02:45)
So to be clear, because you had proposed and Manchin to me background check expansion in 2013, 2015, 2019.
Pat Toomey: (02:54)
Margaret Brennan: (02:54)
You’re saying what’s surviving right now is essentially a watered down version of that. I mean how is it different?
Pat Toomey: (03:02)
Well this is a moving target if you will. We’re still in discussions and we are still trying to figure out exactly what mechanism is going to enable us to get the votes that we would need. So I can’t be precise about that, Margaret, it hasn’t been finally resolved. But something in the space of expanding background checks I think is very… Well certainly is on the table and I hope will be part of a final package.
Margaret Brennan: (03:32)
Well we see overwhelming support in our CBS polling for background checks, which is why it’s interesting that it’s difficult. There was a Republican Congressman in the state of New York, I’m sure you heard about this, Chris Jacobs. He represents the district around Buffalo where there was that awful mass shooting just a few weeks ago. He dropped out of his reelection race seven days after he publicly endorsed a federal assault weapons ban and limits on high capacity magazines. This is what he had to say.
Chris Jacobs: (04:04)
We have a problem in our country in terms of both our major parties. If you stray from a party position, you are annihilated. For the Republicans, it became pretty apparent to me over the last week that that issue is gun control, any gun control.
Margaret Brennan: (04:26)
Do you agree with him?
Pat Toomey: (04:30)
No, I don’t. I think there’s a wide range of opinions among elected Republicans just as there are among Republican voters across the country. In my case, I wrote a bill with Senator Manchin and advocated for expanding background checks in 2013, as you pointed out, again in 2015 we voted on it and 2016-
Margaret Brennan: (04:48)
Right, but you couldn’t get enough Republicans to vote with you to get it passed.
Pat Toomey: (04:53)
I was reelected without a primary challenge. So I think that tells you something also.
Margaret Brennan: (05:00)
Well excuse me, I’m sorry, my voice, the president himself has campaigned on this idea that he can be a deal broker. Does he need to get involved or does the involvement of the president lessen the chances of success here?
Pat Toomey: (05:18)
Yeah. The problem is I think the president might have been a president who would reach across the aisle, try to bring people together, but he’s chosen not to take that approach since day one. He has sided with the far left of his party and really not reached out to Republicans. He gave a speech on this topic where he advocated policies that he knows for sure have no chance of passing the Senate, probably couldn’t even get 50 votes and hold the Democrats much less to get the 60 we would need. So once again, the president is not being very helpful. I think at the end of the day, this is going to come down to whether we can reach a consensus in the United States Senate. There are intensive discussions underway, it includes people who have not been engaged on this issue in the past. I certainly can’t guarantee any outcome, but it feels to me like we are closer than we’ve been since I’ve been in the Senate.
Margaret Brennan: (06:10)
So you can get four other Republicans to stand with you, the six who are negotiating?
Pat Toomey: (06:17)
My hope is we’ll get a lot more than that. My hope is we’ll get at least half the Republican conference. That should be the goal here. We’re going to have to be realistic about what can do that. Senator Murphy alluded to the idea that it’s not going to be everything certainly that Democrats would like. We’ll see where it ends up.
Margaret Brennan: (06:39)
Is there a risk that the Republican party becomes associated with gun violence if you can’t get those votes?
Pat Toomey: (06:51)
Look, I think the Republicans have been very consistently supporters of Second Amendment rights. Republican voters expect Republicans to defend the Second Amendment. I think there is a place to land that’s consistent with the Second Amendment as I’ve been advocating for expanding background checks by the way. I think encouraging states to have some red flag laws could make sense as long as there’s adequate due process. I think there are school safety provisions. There are mental health issues that we could address. So there are things we could do that would be constructive that are consistent with Republican values and I’m hoping we’ll get there.
Margaret Brennan: (07:28)
Senator, thank you for your time today. We will watch for the outcome of those talks. Face the Nation will be back in a minute.