The shooting that claimed 11 lives at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood last fall spurred more working-class people in Pittsburgh’s suburbs to rethink their views on the need for gun control bills, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said Tuesday night on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews.
Following the 2012 shooting that killed 26 young children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, “you saw in the eastern Philadelphia suburbs, Republican areas that supported background checks … even Sen. (Pat) Toomey, Sen. (Bob) Casey completely changed his position,” Peduto said during a short segment on the hour-long talk show during a trip to the capital.
“But in Western Pennsylvania, the gun culture is still so strong that you didn’t see that,” Peduto said. “After Tree of Life, you started to see it in white suburban areas throughout southwestern Pennsylvania, and these aren’t the most affluent areas, these are the blue-collar, working-class areas.”
When pressed by host Chris Matthews about how to appease the hunter-friendly region when it comes to gun-related legislation, Peduto said, “We’re not taking about taking away those guns.”
“What we’re talking about is right now there is a limited window … to do something,” Peduto said. “That something is two things: It’s universal background checks, and it’s red flag laws, which, when put together, will help law enforcement officials to be able to proactively stop a crime from happening.”
Peduto said that such changes have support from officials in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, from “the reddest of the red to the bluest of the blue.” He has been in the capital since Monday with other mayors of cities victimized by mass shootings to pressure the Senate for a vote on a bill that would expand and strengthen background checks for gun buyers.
Peduto was joined on Hardball by co-mayoral panelist, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who said that legislation awaiting action by the Senate has significant support from the public. She predicted that such support would continue to grow in states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania as well as Colorado and Arizona.
“Nine out of 10 Americans support it, and if nothing moves by 2020, people will be held accountable,” Whaley said, referring to a Washington Post-ABC poll published Monday.
“Why do mayors act and senators don’t?” Matthews asked the panelists.
“Because we are in the streets, because we know the family members,” Peduto said.
“We see the blood,” she said.
“Literally,” Peduto added.
“We often will be not only with law enforcement but many times with victims who are innocent and with their families as well, and so there’s a very real connect, and in Washington, there’s a very real disconnect,” Peduto said.
Prior to the show, Peduto joined local and federal legislators Tuesday afternoon in Washington for a press conference on gun safety legislation organized by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Peduto and U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey agree felons and the mentally ill should not have access to guns and that bipartisan support for so-called “red flag” legislation is mounting.
The pair met for about 40 minutes Tuesday in Toomey’s Washington office.
Peduto tweeted after the discussion that “progress is being made.”
Good AM meeting with @SenToomey – lots of work needed to build Bipartisan support for Background Checks & Red Flag Laws, but progress is being made.
— bill peduto (@billpeduto) September 10, 2019
Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, supports red flag legislation that protects due process rights, according to his office. He also supports an expansion of background checks on all private sales nationwide.
“It was a pleasure to meet with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and discuss how the best path forward to keep guns out of the hands of felons and the dangerously mentally ill is a bipartisan background check bill,” Toomey said in a statement. “Serious reforms will require Republicans and Democrats to work together.”
Neither Toomey’s office nor Peduto spokesman Tim McNulty provided much detail on the conversation.
McNulty said the bulk of it involved background checks and the red flag legislation. They also discussed a package of ordinances that Pittsburgh City Council passed earlier this year, including a red flag bill and ban on the use of certain semi-automatic rifles, ammunition and accessories within city limits.
The ordinances are on hold pending the outcome of lawsuits filed by Second Amendment advocates.
On Monday, Peduto and other mayors from around the country lobbied the Senate for a vote on two bills passed by the House of Representatives.
One bill aims to expand background checks to include the private transfer of firearms between individuals. The other extends the review period deadline for background checks from three to 10 business days. Currently, if a background check is not completed in three days, the sale can go through.