EDITORIAL: Action, not prayers, needed
In the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, Pennsylvania’s Democratic senator swiftly renewed calls for stricter gun laws.
Sen. Bob Casey’s list of recommendations included a ban on military-style weapons, limits on clips and magazine sizes, universal background checks and a ban on those on the terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms
He also offered a bill Monday that would prohibit people convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from buying firearms.
On the other side of the aisle, our Republican senator offered condolences.
“My heart goes out to the loved ones of those murdered at the nightclub in Orlando this morning,” Sen. Pat Toomey posted on his Facebook page Sunday.
“Law enforcement officials are investigating this shooting as an act of terrorism, and it appears to have taken many lives,” he continued. “I extend my condolences to the family and friends of those killed and I am praying for the wounded who are undergoing medical treatment.”
Like us, many of Toomey’s Facebook followers seem to have had it with hand-wringing from the few people who can actually do something about this senseless — and more and more common — violence.
“Condolences from Congress don't seem to be working,” Andrew Danner replied to the senator’s post.
“Maybe we need legislators willing to try harder than thoughts, prayers, and condolences,” he wrote. “Let the American public handle the thoughts, prayers, and condolences and maybe that will give Congress more time to try something more effective. If you are unwilling to take the lead, I'm happy to vote as a PA resident for folks who will.
“Thanks in advance for your condolences and inaction for the next time this happens,” Danner added.
With the toll at 49 dead, Sunday’s rampage at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was the deadliest mass shooting in America’s shameful history of such attacks.
It’s shameful because nothing — not the frequency of attacks, the number of victims or the ages of the victims — has moved a majority of our lawmakers toward a common-sense reform of gun laws in this country.
Not even the 2012 slaughter of 20 first-graders and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, could sway these men and women.
To his credit, Toomey was one of the few members of Congress to propose something in the months after Sandy Hook.
In April 2013, he and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia co-sponsored a bill to expand background checks to transactions at gun shows and online. Toomey termed the legislation “common sense” rather than gun control.
Not surprisingly, common sense failed to clear the Senate that year.
The legislation failed again earlier this year when it was reintroduced by Manchin following the San Bernardino, California, shooting that left 14 dead. Toomey didn’t speak up for the measure when it was put to a vote.
And rather than applaud President Obama when he accomplished expanded background checks via executive order, the senator chose to criticize the move.
Toomey is hardly a champion of gun control, a maverick bucking his party. In the past he has voted against other reasonable bills, including a measure that would ban people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms and prohibit large-capacity magazines.
The fact is, most Pennsylvanians want lawmakers to act. A Franklin & Marshall College survey earlier this year found 55 percent want new gun control laws, while 88 percent specifically support federal background checks on all prospective gun purchasers.
We’re with Danner, the senator’s Facebook follower: If Toomey isn’t willing to be a leader on this issue, it’s time to elect someone who’s up to the task.