Toomey reiterates support for keeping guns from criminals, mentally ill

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

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

The massacre in South Carolina last week has reopened a discussion on gun violence in America, from around kitchen tables to the halls of Congress.

In 2013, U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia sponsored a bipartisan measure for stricter gun laws. Without sufficient legislative support, however, the bill — and momentum for tougher standards in the wake of mass killings at Sandy Hook  Elementary School — languished.

Now, a week after the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, Toomey is broaching the topic of stricter gun laws again.

Attempts to make it harder for criminals and dangerously mentally ill persons have been mischaracterized as “gun control,” said Toomey, a Republican. 

“We can and should do more to make it difficult for guns to get in the hands of people who have no right to them — violent criminals and those who are dangerously mentally ill,” he said.

Toomey said what he proposes is similar to law already in place in Pennsylvania.

Once endorsed by the NRA, Toomey said he does support the Second Amendment and has voted against bills that prevent law-abiding citizens from purchasing certain categories of weapons.

This week, Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization founded a month after the shooting in Connecticut in 2012,  recognized Toomey for his work. The organization endeavors to “protect children from gun violence by providing research-based prevention programs and practices in the areas of mental health and wellness and gun safety.”

Toomey, who said it has been an ongoing effort, said laws will play only a small role in the phenomenon of mass shootings.

This story has been updated.

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