By Eric Boehm, Melissa Daniels | PA Independent
CAMP HILL, Pa. – Capping off a difficult week, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey addressed a crowd of Pennsylvania conservatives outside Harrisburg on Friday afternoon, acknowledging both his support for new gun control measures that have angered many conservatives and the failure of those proposals in the Senate this week.
Toomey did not apologize for his support of legislation that would have enhanced background checks on those who want to purchase firearms, and instead offered a detailed explanation of what was in the legislation and why he had proposed it. He spent more than nine minutes of his 30 minute remarks discussing the gun issue.
In the end, he said he hoped to “agree to disagree” with conservatives angered by it.
“We had the vote on Wednesday. I lost. I get that. I think this issue is probably settled for now,” Toomey said.
He also promised to resume his focus on economic issues, winning him cheers from the conservative crowd inside the Radisson ballroom in suburban Harrisburg.
The crowd was only so vocal in their disapproval – a murmur here, or a sigh there. And Toomey’s opportunity to make his case heard may have helped ease tensions, as the senator received a larger standing ovation when he left the stage than when he took it.
Dave Taylor of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association said Toomey “acquitted himself very well.”
Taylor noted how the senator delved into detail about his arguments thoroughly, as is his hallmark style, while making his case.
As the conservative movement continues to mature, there’s bound to be disagreements about how to proceed, Taylor said. In this case, gun rights absolutists may be turned off from Toomey completely, but many will “let bygones be bygones,” Taylor said.
“For conservatives, there needs to space for healthy argument over how we apply our shaped principals to reach our shared goals,” Taylor said.
Still, some in the conservative base may see Toomey’s proposal as a move away from steadfast principals.
Josh Monighan, a political activist in central Pennsylvania who is a member of the Harrisburg Liberty Alliance, said the core of Toomey’s legislation would’ve created more lists for people to be on, lists harbored by the federal government.
Monighan said he wasn’t encouraged by Toomey’s current direction.
“Like any politician you go along with, there’s certain things you can agree upon, there’s certain things you can disagree with,” he said. “I would just like to see less compromises, and more steadfastness to the principals.”
Friday, Toomey promised to fight any effort to create a gun registry, which earned him some of the loudest applause of the day.
Toomey said his plan would “absolutely not” have prevented tragedies like the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December, but that it would have made it more difficult for two classes of people – criminals and the dangerously mentally ill – to obtain guns through legal channels.
A determined criminal will always be able to get a gun, Toomey said, but it makes sense to make it harder for some of them to do so.