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Toomey Emerges as New Figure in Gun Control Debate

Image: Toomey Emerges as New Figure in Gun Control Debate U.S. Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa.

Monday, 08 Apr 2013 12:51 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Sen. Patrick Toomey – known as one of Washington's most conservative lawmakers – has reportedly emerged as the unlikely bridge between success or failure for new gun control legislation expected to include greatly expanded background checks.

According to Politico and other publications, the Pennsylvania Republican has been in talks lately with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia in an effort to reach a bipartisan agreement aimed at pleasing both sides of the issue.

Sources told Politico the two senators are working on a provision that allows background checks for all gun sales, except those that take place between close family members and some hunters. Neither senator has discussed the talks publicly, except to say they've been speaking to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

An agreement between Toomey and Manchin could move some Senate conservatives to agree in part with a gun control plan pushed by Democrats and the White House that would require universal background checks for most gun transactions, including those carried out by both private sellers and gun show merchants.

Many conservatives, however, say they are still concerned about privacy issues and whether gun owner names will end up on a federal registry.

Before turning to Toomey for help, Manchin had spent the better part of the last three months trying to negotiate an acceptable deal with GOP Sens. Toomey never even entered conversations about gun control efforts until Politico reported Friday that he had been exchanging drafts of possible legislation with Manchin.

As a former head of the conservative Club for Growth, Toomey is considered one of the most conservative members of Congress. Like Manchin, he also enjoys an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association on gun rights. His support could be key to drawing in other senators who are afraid to buck the NRA, or other conservative groups opposed to any new gun legislation.

His support for expanded background checks could also boost his re-election chances in 2016, especially in urban areas where his conservatism in the past has hurt him at the polls.

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