WASHINGTON -- Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) sounds doubtful that Monday's shooting at the Washington Navy Yard will lead to another push for expanding background checks for gun purchases.
"The Senate spoke on this issue and we came up five votes short. It is unclear if yesterday’s tragedy changes the atmosphere sufficiently to yield a different outcome," Toomey said in a statement to the Inquirer.
Toomey made national headlines earlier this year when he crossed party lines to sponsor a bill expanding background checks following the Sandy Hook school shooting. But his effort with Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) fell short in the Senate, and momentum for new gun laws has seemed to fade since then.
Manchin also indicated today that he would not renew his push for broader background checks, also saying that it seems unlikely that enough votes have changed. The plan needs five more votes to clear the Senate (not counting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who voted 'no' for purely procedural reasons).
"I am still in favor of expanding background checks to all commercial sales," Toomey said. "I voted for them in 1999. I was proud to work with Sen. Manchin on legislation that would have done so while also expanding the ability of Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights."
Some lawmakers have cited the Navy Yard shooting as a reason to revisit gun laws, but that effort seems unlikely. The Senate is likely to spend the next several weeks focused on a critical spending bill and debt ceiling fight.
Still, Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.), the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, cited the Toomey-Manchin bill on the Senate floor Tuesday morning.
"There was an issue before the Senate several months ago, a bipartisan amendment offered by Sens. Manchin and Toomey that would have taken an extra step to keep guns out of the hands of those who have a hsitory of felonies and who are mentally ill," Durbin said.
The sponsors, however, do not appear ready for another fight just five months after their first effort fell short.
- Jonathan Tamari