Gun rights group says Toomey promised to back off background checks

     In June, Sandy Hook Promise co-founder and board member Bill Sherlach, (left), honored U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, at the Sandy Hook Promise Inaugural Gala in Washington, D.C. (Paul Morigi/AP Images for Sandy Hook Promise Foundation)

    In June, Sandy Hook Promise co-founder and board member Bill Sherlach, (left), honored U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, at the Sandy Hook Promise Inaugural Gala in Washington, D.C. (Paul Morigi/AP Images for Sandy Hook Promise Foundation)

    A Pennsylvania gun rights group says it cancelled planned protests on the day of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s re-election announcement after the Toomey camp promised to back off background check legislation.

     

    Democrats are pouncing on the allegation as evidence Toomey isn’t the common-sense lawmaker he claims to be. Toomey’s office says it ain’t so.

    After the Sandy Hook school shootings, Toomey teamed up with Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin to try strengthening background checks for gun purchases.

    The idea died in Congress, but, at his re-election announcement Sunday, Toomey emphasized his commitment to finding common ground with Democrats on ideas that make sense.

    In a campaign video shown before Toomey spoke, he says, “I’m deeply concerned about public safety, about keeping our children safe in schools, about keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.”

    But Pennsylvanians for Self Protection said on its website that it cancelled planned protests that day, after the Toomey camp “gave positive responses to our request that the Toomey-Manchin anti-gun legislation or any similar bills not be reintroduced.”

    “We sincerely appreciate all of those who signed up to protest the senator’s offices statewide,” the website told supporters. “We will update you if the need arises for a political demonstration, but now it seems unnecessary.”

    The Toomey campaign referred me to the senator’s Washington communications director, E.R. Anderson. She said Toomey’s statewide director of operations, Bob DeSousa, met with group members and told them the senator is still committed to the principles of the Manchin-Toomey legislation.

    “Senator Toomey is 100 percent committed to expanding background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill,” Anderson wrote in an email. “He is open to supporting any legislative effort that accomplishes that goal, including the reintroduction of the Manchin-Toomey bill.”

    This account is obviously at odds with the Pennsylvanians for Self Protection website.

    I reached out to the group, and Director of Legislative Affairs Tom Campione wrote in an email that the group’s board will meet Wednesday to discuss the subject, and he can’t add anything until then.

    Just in case any reporters missed it, Democratic senatorial candidate Katie McGinty’s campaign issued a release linking to the website and a story in Politico, and saying the Toomey campaign was “caught red-handed playing politics with the issue of gun safety.”

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.