America’s Gun Problem Isn’t Pat Toomey’s Fault

Mathis: He tried and failed. What more can you expect?

Pat Toomey, Joe Manchin

I get that it’s an election year and thus partisan attacks won’t always be fair, but still: It seems pretty silly that Democrats are taking aim at Sen. Pat Toomey, of all people, on the gun issue.

Why? Because a few years ago, after the Sandy Hook massacre, Toomey became the rare Republican to buck the NRA — he joined Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and sponsored a bill to expand background checks for gun purchases. Modest? Sure. Watered-down? Probably. And yet: It was still too much for the Gun Caucus to accept. The bill never came close to passage.

Despite this, Toomey is now being criticized by his campaign rivals for not doing enough to end the scourge of mass shootings.

“If you are truly committed to doing the right thing – and you truly believe in your efforts – you do not let failure deter you,” Democratic Senate candidate Katie McGinty wrote to Toomey this week.

I like McGinty. But this is a silly criticism. And one that might prevent the kind of action she says she wants.

Why? Because to be a Republican proposing any kind of gun restrictions at all, no matter how modest, is to risk a revolt from your party. Toomey was brave to tackle the issue; there’s no reason to expect him to be politically suicidal about it.

Besides which: If Toomey is going to take heat from the right for supporting a gun bill and from the left for not winning that fight — a fight that Dems can’t seem to win on their own, anyway — what incentive on earth is there for him to come out in support of future gun bills? If you can’t win for losing, the smart bet is to stay out of the game. Is that what we want of Toomey?

Criticizing Toomey on the gun issue might make smart politics. It does nothing to solve the gun issue. My recommendation to Dems? Move on.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.