Editorial: Gun control isn’t just red or blue
When you think about guns and legislation, there’s a tendency to default to red and blue battlegrounds. It’s easy to reduce to stereotypes: Democrats want to restrict them and Republicans want to hand them out like bobbleheads at a baseball game.
But Pennsylvania offers a lesson in the rainbow of red when it comes to regulation.
On the dark, brick-red side, you’ve got the large gun-owning population of the Keystone State. The people who have guns for personal protection. The ones with concealed-carry permits. The ones who hunt with muzzle loaders for sport. The ones who feed their families with a rifle.
In that place where red muddies to purple, you have Pat Toomey.
Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. senator is not someone who would normally be called a centrist. He is a party man. He believes in the traditional conservative platforms when it comes to things like the economy and the national debt, security and family values.
But then there are guns.
In the weeks after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, Toomey joined hands with his Democratic counterpart from West Virginia, Sen. Joe Manchin, and they brought forth a bipartisan background check bill.
It died in April 2013. We have had no substantive or successful progress on a gun control measure since. Not after Parkland. Not after Las Vegas. Not after Pittsburgh.
But when Toomey visited the Tribune-Review editorial board in December 2018, less than two months after the Tree of Life shooting, he mentioned that he still hoped Manchin-Toomey could be revived.
Three mass shootings in a week’s time — Gilroy Garlic Festival in California, a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and an entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio — seem to have acted like a defibrillator for the bill, jolting it back to life.
And there is support for control that doesn’t just come from groups like Moms Demand Action and Democratic leaders like Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. It also comes from the magenta band of the red Republican spectrum.
A recent Franklin & Marshall College poll showed two-thirds of responding registered voters support additional regulations for gun owners. Those include people like Cynthia Kuester of Harrisburg, a gun owner and Republican.
“I want guns. I just don’t want the mentally ill and kids and people who don’t belong in the United States to have them,” she said.
It is important to be honest about something as important as a weapon that can kill and a constitutional right. The truth is that the country has widely divided feelings — and red and blue doesn’t make anything black or white.