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August 22, 2016

Sen. Toomey scores another high-profile gun-control endorsement

Supporters of challenger Katie McGinty counter that incumbent senator 'isn't a moderate on guns, period'

Last week, it was the daughter of a principal who was slain trying to protect students during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting slaughter.

This week, it’s a former U.S. representative who almost died when she was shot by a madman in an attempted assassination while meeting with constituents in Tucson, Arizona.

While both Erica Smegielski and Gabrielle Giffords delivered heartfelt addresses at last month’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, each has now endorsed incumbent U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) in his re-election effort against challenger Katie McGinty.

It seems as if the hotly contested race has shifted to candidates working hard to establish their gun-control bona fides.

On Monday, the Toomey campaign issued a press release to draw attention to an endorsement from Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, which was launched by Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly after Sandy Hook. Specifically, it shared a link to a piece written by Giffords and Kelly on

“In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook, Republican Sens. Pat Toomey and Mark Kirk broke from the gun lobby and supported a bill to help prevent felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill from obtaining firearms at gun shows and online,” they wrote. “This week, they are earning our organization's endorsement.”

This is the sort of trend that would worry any campaign, but especially one of a challenger whose supporters hope she can shift the Senate balance of power back to the Democratic Party.

Gun control is a big issue nationally, and if a Republican can point to support from Democrats, it’s the thing of which powerful campaign ads are made, even if critics maintain that Toomey was in part driven by visions of political gain to make those moves in the first place.

So, I asked the McGinty campaign about it on Monday, and it looped PaDems communications director Preston Maddock into the discussion. He sent out a press release of his own, under the subject line “Setting the Record Straight: Pat Toomey’s Record on Ending Gun Violence.”

“Since he was elected, Pat Toomey has had numerous opportunities to step up and act to keep guns out of dangerous hands and assault weapons off the street. Instead, he has largely stayed silent on the issue, and opted instead to brag about his 'perfect track record' of siding with the NRA,” he said. “When it came time to vote on several gun safety proposals this summer, in the wake of the attack on Pulse Nightclub, Toomey refused to cross party lines or stand up to the gun lobby, voting against commonsense bills supported by leading gun safety advocates like Americans for Responsible Solutions and Everytown for Gun Safety.

“Pat Toomey isn't a moderate on guns, period. He's stood in the way of common sense gun safety laws and he would happily keep Mitch McConnell as the Senate Majority Leader, meaning that gun safety laws have almost no chance in the Senate.”

It’d be surprising if this debate doesn’t continue as the candidates get closer to Election Day, especially if gun-control activists continue supporting Toomey.