HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey will not get an endorsement from the National Rifle Association, and his rating dropped by two grades after the Pennsylvania Republican went against gun-rights groups and his party leadership to vote for an expansion of background checks.
Toomey’s new C-rating is a downgrade from the A-rating and hearty endorsement the NRA gave him when he last ran in 2010 in Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania.
Toomey is running in a hotly contested race with Democratic challenger Katie McGinty that could determine control of the Senate. Finding compromise on gun control became something of a signature issue in his first term.
Toomey, who still voted in line with gun-rights groups on other various bills, is now the rare conservative Republican to run with the endorsement of two prominent gun-control activists, billionaire Michael Bloomberg and former Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
An NRA spokeswoman said Thursday that Toomey’s latest rating is based on his voting record, including the legislation to require background checks for online gun sales and purchases at gun shows. Even though the organization is not renewing its endorsement of Toomey, the NRA spokeswoman, Jennifer Baker, attacked McGinty.
McGinty would be a “rubber stamp for an anti-gun Supreme Court justice” who would vote to overturn the 2008 Heller decision, which determined that Americans have the right to keep and bear arms for self defense, Baker said.
McGinty, drew an F-rating from the NRA, unsurprising given her support for a much broader range of gun-control measures than Toomey supports, including banning the sale of military-style weapons and imposing a federal limit on magazine capacity. McGinty is endorsed by the gun-control group, CeaseFire Pennsylvania.
McGinty’s campaign has pointed out that Toomey voted with the NRA on various gun-control measures sponsored by Democrats, and on Thursday it attacked the NRA as “playing politics.”
“The NRA knows it can count on Pat Toomey to vote with them every time if he’s re-elected, so they’re willing to do whatever it takes to keep him in the Senate, including changing their ‘grade’ for him,” McGinty’s campaign said.
The NRA, it said, “wants Pat Toomey in the Senate, plain and simple.”
The background checks bill failed 50-48 in December, with just four Republicans backing it and all but one Democrat supporting it.
The NRA’s treatment of Toomey is the latest in a growing line of gun-rights groups that have declined to endorse Toomey in a state passionate about hunting and guns.
Toomey has defended his voting record, saying he sees no conflict between the right to own a gun and “a three-minute background check.”
“As with many issues, we will only achieve progress on commonsense gun safety measures if we work to build bipartisan consensus, rather than talk past each other with more partisanship,” the Toomey campaign said in a statement Thursday.
Currently, the checks are only required for transactions from licensed gun dealers.
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