Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey came clean on Monday about why, exactly, he isn’t in favor of banning AR-15s and other military-style rifles, providing one of the first honest answers about why Republicans oppose changing the country’s gun laws.
In short, Toomey said, the guns are popular. People like them!
To be fair, he’s right! AR-15s and other civilian versions of military assault rifles have exploded in popularity in recent years, fueled by anxiety over bans, their prevalence in pop culture, and aggressive marketing by manufacturers. The ATF has no real idea, only vague estimates, as to how many there are in the country.
Compared to others in his party, Toomey has taken a paltry $40,000 from the NRA over his career (and none since 2010), and he’s pushed for expanded background checks in the past. So his thinking isn’t representative of someone like a full NRA goon like Matt Gaetz, but in some ways it’s more dangerous. Toomey is willing to pay lip service to the issue of gun violence in this country but isn’t willing to take any bold action on it, instead just signing on to baby-step legislation like universal background checks and staying out of the fray for everything else. But moderation won’t stop mass shootings.