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June 16, 2016

Here's how Pennsylvania's senators want to combat gun violence

Toomey, Casey unveil proposals

In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in American history, both of Pennsylvania's U.S. senators are proposing ways to combat gun violence. Pat Toomey, a Republican, and Bob Casey, a Democrat, have announced plans to introduce legislation in hopes of addressing the problem. 

Here's what you need to know about both senators' proposals:

Pat Toomey: Block terrorists, but maintain rights

Background: Toomey got some props from gun-control advocates a couple years back for reaching across the aisle to work on legislation to extend background checks on firearm purchases after the Sandy Hook shooting. His bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, failed in 2013 and again two years later. Toomey said after the Charleston shooting last year that trying to push the amendment again was not likely.

The Bill: According to a press release, the legislation Toomey plans on introducing Thursday would "ensure that dangerous terrorists are denied a firearm, while providing sufficient due process to protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners." Names of suspected terrorists would be submitted to a federal court by the attorney general, and after a review of whether those names are rightly on the list, the attorney general could bar them from buying or selling a gun.

Where it stands: Toomey had been in talks with a gun-control group led by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in crafting the bill. But those talks fell apart, Politico reported, because the group was concerned about the potential backlog created by the mandatory court review. Toomey said in his release the review would prevent Americans wrongly included on the AG's initial list from being denied their Second Amendment rights. Bloomberg's group, Everytown for Gun Safety, did say they would support the bill if it gets bipartisan backing.

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Bob Casey: Hate crimes, forcing action

Background: Casey was considered a moderate Democrat when he was elected in 2006, mainly because he opposed abortion and gun control at the time. In regards to guns, he changed his thinking after Sandy Hook, thanks to some prodding from his family, according to a recent Washington Post profile. Casey wrote in a post on Medium this week: "We know that there’s no way to eliminate all instances of violence, but those of us in the Senate must ask: 'Are there steps, consistent with the Second Amendment, that would substantially reduce the likelihood of another mass shooting?' I believe that the answer is 'yes.'"

The Bill: The legislation, which Casey announced plans to introduce on Monday, "would keep guns out of the hands of those who commit criminal acts based on hate." It would bar anyone convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime of buying, possessing or shipping a firearm. "If you have proven you will commit criminal acts based on hate, you absolutely should not have access to a gun," Casey said in a release.

Where it stands: It's unclear, as Casey, along with other Democrats in the Senate, have been more focused on forcing their Republican colleagues to act on gun violence. He joined in a 15-hour filibuster Wednesday, led by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, that seemed to work; Murphy announced at the end of his marathon speech — which focused on the Sandy Hook victims in his home state as well as the Orlando victims — that Republican leaders had agreed to hold votes on measures to extend background checks and ban sales to suspected terrorists.