UPDATED: Six months after Newtown, Toomey again backs background checks

File photo: Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. speaks to a member of the media at Temple University Hospital on Monday, March 11, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

WASHINGTON -- On the six month anniversary of the Newtown, Conn. school shooting that prompted a national debate on gun violence, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey reiterated support for his bill that would have expanded background checks for gun purchases, and said he still hopes it can become law.

"It is a somber week as we remember that it has been six months since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School," Toomey said in a statement Thursday. "The bravery of the survivors and family members has been an inspiration to many who believe – as I do – that we can do a better job of keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have them."

He later added, "I continue to believe this is common-sense policy and hope that we can find the votes needed for passage."

UPDATED: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) also hinted that the issue could return as he spoke at a press conference with families of the victims.

"The writing is on the wall," he said, a bill to strengthen background checks will eventually pass the U.S. Senate. "It's only a matter of time."

Reid later posted a similar message on Twitter.

Toomey, a Republican, made national headlines when he co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) to expand background checks to cover firearms sales at gun shows and online. The bill was blocked in a Senate vote in April, but the issue has been back in the news this week.

Newtown families returned to Capitol Hill to lobby lawmakers for tougher gun laws, and both sides of the debate have launched ads on the issue. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has targeted Democrats who voted against the background check bill, and has urged New York donors to withhold support from them, while the NRA has aired ads attacking Manchin.

Toomey's statement Thursday reiterated his support for gun rights, but he called his background check bill a "common sense" step.

"I am a gun owner and a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. If my bill would have restricted the rights of law-abiding citizens, I would not have supported it," Toomey said.

He continued:

"Our bill would not have stopped the tragedy at Sandy Hook. However, the Manchin-Toomey proposal would help keep guns out of the hands of at least some criminals and the dangerously mentally ill."

In May Toomey told the Inquirer that he was open to returning to the background check plan, if he and Manchin could win over the needed votes.