State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Toomey strikes conciliatory, final note on gun debate

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 19, 2013 4:30 PM
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Photo by Mary Wilson / witf


For Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, speaking to the annual conservative confab known as the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference days after the end of his brief foray into the gun debate was like heading into the belly of the beast.

Things were looking dicey for a moment, there. The senator worked the crowd, shaking hands with people who politely told him they disagreed with his support for expanding background checks on firearm purchases. Introductory remarks that touched on Toomey’s failed amendment elicited sounds of dissent from the seated audience.

Toomey didn’t gloss over his week in Washington. He noted the blowback he’s received from gun-rights supporters. He even explained the amendment again, hoping to clear up “inaccuracies” he said he heard from opponents of it.

But, ultimately, he vowed to step away from the gun debate.

“This issue, I think, is probably resolved for now, and I want you to know that I intend to turn my attention to my usual wheelhouse,” he said. The room’s collective squint softened. Crossed arms relaxed into applause.

Lowman Henry, the event’s organizer, said some disagreed with Toomey on the background checks issue, but they won’t desert him.

“He’s the game in town. And he’s a good game! I mean, there may be some disagreement by some on one issue, but overall, it’s a good game,” Henry said. “It’s the best we’ve ever had, and we’re not going to form a circular firing squad on this.”

Toomey’s remarks to the crowd ended on a rousing note – he railed against the Affordable Care Act to fierce applause.

Supporters followed him out back, right up to the door of his SUV.

“Is that the last you’ll say on gun control?” said one man. Toomey laughed warily.

“For a while,” he said. “I gotta run. Take care.”

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