Sen. Pat Toomey says assault weapons are too popular to ban, but his constituents disagree | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Sen. Pat Toomey says assault weapons are too popular to ban, but his constituents disagree

click to enlarge Sen. Pat Toomey says assault weapons are too popular to ban, but his constituents disagree
Screenshot taken from Fox News
Pat Toomey
Since 2012, Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey has been a rare exception among GOP senators in his views on gun reform. He has been backing legislation with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) that would require background checks for gun show and online purchases, but not transfers and sales between friends and family.

And while these views have gotten him some praise from moderates, most of his gun stances are actually out of line with his constituents. Yesterday, that became even more evident.

On Fox News on Tuesday, Toomey shared his renewed push for legislation for background checks for gun show and online purchases, but when asked about a ban to assault weapons, he rejected the idea because the firearms were too popular.

“They're extremely popular, and so to ban an extremely popular firearm, I'm not going to support that,” said Toomey of assault weapons. “That would be an infringement on the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

And while assault-style weapons like the AR-15 may be popular with gun enthusiasts, a majority of Pennsylvanians actually want them banned. According to a March 2018 poll from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., 68 percent of registered voters support banning assault-style weapons in the state.

Of that group, 61 percent strongly support such measures. Comparatively, the 2018 poll said that 27 percent oppose a ban in Pennsylvania. A March 2019 poll from F&M showed that 62 percent of Pennsylvanians support creating more laws that regulate gun ownership, while 35 percent oppose those laws.

Nationally, the support for banning assault weapons is more mixed. A 2018 Gallup poll showed 40 percent support a ban, while 57 percent oppose one. However, a 2017 Pew Research poll showed 68 percent of Americans support an assault-weapons ban.

Versions of an AR-15 were used in both the recent mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso. Both were equipped with high-capacity magazines. Pittsburgh has banned the use of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines within the city limits, but the laws have not taken effect because of a court challenge.

Toomey also said on Fox News that guns described as assault weapons are no more powerful than hunting rifles, and they are no more lethal.

Shootings with assault weapons only make up 3 percent of gun homicides in the U.S., but experts say that assault weapons likely do lead to increased fatalities, especially in mass shootings.

Daniel Webster, the director at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told Vox that while the data is still preliminary, “The number of people who are shot in public mass shootings goes down roughly by 10 percent every year that [assault-weapon ban] was in place.”

From 1994-2004, assault weapons were banned in the U.S.

Even though Toomey’s stance on assault weapons may be out of step with Pennsylvania voters, he is still pushing for reforms some voters may appreciate. In addition to his support of some additional background checks, Toomey backs the NICS Denial Notification Act, which would inform state and local law enforcement when someone who is prohibited from purchasing a gun attempts to buy one. The gun-reform advocacy group Everytown has applauded that bill.

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By Mars Johnson