▶ Watch Video: Toomey says expanding gun background checks “on the table” as Senate talks continue

The following is a transcript of an interview with Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania that aired Sunday, June 5, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey. He is one of the senators involved in bipartisan efforts to reduce gun violence. And he joins us this morning from the Keystone State. Senator, welcome. 

SENATOR PAT TOOMEY: Good morning, Margaret. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: The numbers are pretty staggering here. There have been 239 mass shootings in 2022. According to the gun violence archive, which is a nonprofit that tracks these. Overnight, there was one in Philadelphia, three people killed, 14 injured using a semi automatic weapon. What has happened to the American people that has taken violence to this level?

SEN. TOOMEY: Yeah, well, it’s a- it’s a complex and multifaceted problem, as you know, Margaret, in- in some cases, criminality in our big cities has escalated enormously. But there’s a lot of factors contributing to that, in some cases, it’s district attorneys who think their job is to make sure no one goes to jail. That’s a problem. And then, of course, we have these- these horrific sensational massacres, where a young man clearly has just gone completely off the rails and is deranged. And- and that’s a very different set of circumstances. So it’s- it’s a big, complicated problem.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, it’s a big complicated problem. And most attempts to try to create any kind of solution have stopped. But Democrats and Republicans we just mentioned are negotiating right now to get something. Democrats need 10 Republican votes. You’re one of six Republicans working with Senator Chris Murphy, he said today, that you all are writing this legislation right now. It will not ban assault weapons, it will not have comprehensive background checks as part of it. Is your proposal to expand background checks still in it?

SEN. TOOMEY: Well, I certainly hope we’re going to have an expansion of background checks. You know, Senator Manchin and I have been working on this for a long time. And we’ve tried to establish that, at least for commercial sales of firearms, there ought to be a background check. So sales at gun shows, sales that are advertised over the internet. I don’t know that we’ll get exactly what Senator Manchin and I developed some years ago, it’d probably be something different than that. And that’s fine. There are a number of mechanisms you could use to expand background checks. But I just think it makes sense. We all agree that violent criminals and deranged dangerously mentally ill people shouldn’t have firearms. So we need a mechanism to increase the likelihood that will identify such a person and prevent them from buying a gun legally anyway-


SEN. TOOMEY: -and so that’s the idea behind expanding background checks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So to be clear, because you had proposed the Manchin-Toomey background check expansion in 2013, 2015, 2019. You’re saying what’s surviving right now is essentially a watered down version of that. How is it different?

SEN. TOOMEY: Well- this is a moving target, if you will, we’re still in discussions, and we are still trying to figure out exactly what mechanism is going to enable us to get the votes that we would need. So- so I can’t be precise about that. Margaret, it hasn’t been finally resolved. But something in the space of expanding background checks, I think is very well, it certainly is on the table, and I hope it’ll be part of a final package.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we see overwhelming support in our CBS polling for background checks, which is why it’s interesting that it’s difficult. There was a Republican congressman in the state of New York, I’m sure you heard about this. Chris Jacobs. He represents a district around Buffalo where there was an awful mass shooting just a few weeks ago, he dropped out of his reelection race. After- seven days after he publicly endorsed a Federal Assault Weapons Ban and limits on high capacity magazines. This is what he had to say.

REP. CHRIS JACOBS SOT ON TAPE: We have a problem in our country, in terms of both our major parties. If you stray from a party position, you are annihilated. For the Republicans, it came- it became pretty apparent to me over the last week that that issue is gun control. Any gun control.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you agree with him?

SEN. TOOMEY: No, I don’t. I think there’s a wide range of opinions among elected Republicans just as there are among Republican voters across the country-


SEN. TOOMEY: –in my case, I wrote a bill with Senator Manchin and advocated for expanding background checks in 2013, as you pointed out, again in 2015–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –right, but you couldn’t get enough Republicans to vote with you to get it passed– 

SEN. TOOMEY: –We voted on it in 2016. I was reelected- I was- I was reelected without a primary challenge. So I think that that tells you something also

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, excuse me, I’m sorry, my voice. The President himself has campaigned on this idea that he can be a deal breaker- broker. Does he need to get involved? Or does the involvement of the president lessen the chances of success here?

SEN. TOOMEY: Yeah, the problem is I think the President might have been a president who would reach across the aisle try to bring people together. But he’s chosen not to take that approach. Since day one, he has sided with the far left of his party and really not reached out to Republicans. He gave a speech on this topic where he advocated policies that he knows for sure have no chance of passing the Senate probably couldn’t even get 50 votes, and hold the Democrats much less get the 60 we would need. So once again, the President is not being very helpful. I think at the end of the day, this is going to come down to whether we can reach a consensus in the United States Senate. There are intensive discussions underway. It includes people who have not been engaged on this issue in the past. I can’t certainly can’t guarantee any outcome. But it feels to me like we are closer than we’ve been since I’ve been in the Senate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you can get four other Republicans to stand with you, the six who are negotiating?

SEN. TOOMEY: My hope is we’ll get a lot more than that. My hope is we’ll get at least half the republican conference. You know that that’s, that should be the goal here. We’re going to have to be realistic about what can do that. Senator Murphy alluded to the idea that it’s not going to be everything. Certainly the Democrats would like. We’ll- we’ll see where it ends up.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there a risk that the Republican Party becomes associated with gun violence, if you can’t get those votes?

SEN. TOOMEY: You know, look, I think the Republicans have been very consistently supporters have Second Second Amendment rights. Republican voters expect Republicans to defend the Second Amendment. I think there is a place to land that’s consistent with the Second Amendment, as I’ve been advocating for expanding background checks, by the way, I think encouraging states to have some kind of red flag laws could make sense as long as there’s adequate due process. I think there are school safety provisions, there are mental health issues that we could address. So there are things we could do that would be constructive, that are consistent with Republican values, and I’m hoping we’ll get there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, thank you for your time today. We will watch for the outcome of those talks Face the Nation. We’ll be back in a minute.