by Lila Bricklin
Last month, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) who was shot in the head while meeting constituents at a Tucson shopping center in 2011has endorsed U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Giffords, founder of the gun-control group Americans for Responsible Solutions, is using a long-term strategy to coax Republicans to its cause – even if it hurts Democrats in the interim.
Toomey’s opponent – Democrat Katie McGinty – has been giving the Senator a run for his money. McGinty, who served as chief-of-staff to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, is a former state and federal environmental policy official and the daughter of a retired Philadelphia cop.
Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent and Clinton supporter, endorsed Toomey, too, citing his co-sponsorship of a background check bill after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. Bloomberg rolled out a powerful TV ad featuring Erica Smegielski, daughter of slain principal, Dawn Hochspring. Smegielski, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention in July along with Giffords and Bloomberg, supporting Clinton, lauds Toomey for crossing the aisle in 2013 to broaden background checks. The bill failed.
Reintroduced in 2015, this time without Toomey’s name on it, he voted “aye,” but didn’t speak in its favor. Again, the bill failed.
Smegielski’s call for tougher gun-control laws was among the more passionate speeches at the Wells Fargo Center.
“I am here alone – without my mother – while too many politicians cower behind the gun lobby instead of standing with American families,” she said. “What we need is another mother who is willing to do what’s right – whose bravery can measure up to my mom’s. We need to elect Hillary Clinton.”
But Toomey boasts an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association. Smegielski is a spokeswoman for gun-control groups including Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety.
Giffords’ plan to entice Republicans has short-term risks. For one, Toomey isn’t a model of consistency on gun control. He voted with the NRA this summer on a proposal to prevent suspected terrorists from getting guns.
Democrats traditionally champion gun control, and with less than two months from an election where they have a chance to take back the Senate and maybe even the House of Representatives, why risk an outcome balanced in your favor? Toomey is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country.
In 2013, Toomey voted for a two-thirds majority for the passage of any gun-control legislation, which was rejected. The Gun Owners of America said, if passed, the practical effect would kill Senate gun-control efforts. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the NRA spent more than$1.4 million to back Toomey in 2010.
McGinty, not only supports background checks, but also an assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips ban, like those used in Orlando. Following the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11, McGinty led a call for action to combat gun violence. She stood with LGBTQ gun-control activists and faith leaders urging Toomey to pass legislation to prevent suspected terrorists from buying guns.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable for someone who claims to represent the people of Pennsylvania … to do anything short of taking action, certainly to close this one totally illogical and unacceptable loophole,” McGinty said in a Wall Street Journal interview after the Orlando bloodbath. She describes Toomey’s gun-control stance as political posturing.
The American Civil Liberties Union opposes legislation that uses the watch-listing system as a predicate for gun regulation citing lack of due process safeguards.
If Toomey wins the deadlocked Senate race, one could argue it was the gun-control groups’ support that helped. The evidence that Toomey is not a moderate on gun control is clear. Giffords and Bloomberg support Clinton, and Smegielski refers to her as a “gun sense commander in chief.”
For those interested in strong gun control, about reducing the more than 30,000 gun-related deaths every year, McGinty is the better choice.
Lila Bricklin is a long-time resident of Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill and a regular contributor to the Local.