Toomey on gun reform: 'Beto O'Rourke is not helping'

Toomey on gun reform: 'Beto O'Rourke is not helping'
© Greg Nash

Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.) said on Sunday that Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Warren leads in speaking time during debate Democrats wrangle over whether to break up Big Tech in debate first MORE is not helping the effort to pass gun reform legislation.

"I do think Beto O'Rourke does not help things," Toomey said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

O'Rourke, a former Texas congressman, has come out in support of a mandatory gun buyback program for assault-style weapons, such as those that have been used in many of the nation's deadly mass shootings.


While few of O'Rourke's presidential primary opponents have also come out in support of a similar plan, O'Rourke has been criticized from both sides of the aisle for his strong rhetoric during the debate earlier this month, when he said, "hell yes we're going to take your AR-15, AK-47."

"That's not helpful to this conversation," Toomey said on Sunday.

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyBacklash erupts at video depicting Trump killing media, critics Congress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds Administration to give 'top secret' briefing on Syria amid pushback MORE (D-Conn.), however, on the same show  pushed back on the criticism that O'Rourke may have set back the gun reform fight with his comments.

"I think Republicans who don’t want to vote for a background checks bill are going to look for any excuse to do it. Beto’s comments may be their latest hook, but the fact of the matter is if Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE supports a bill that expands background checks we will get 60 votes for it in the Senate," Murphy said.

A spokesperson for O'Rourke's campaign was not immediately available for comment.

He has continued to defend his remarks in the wake of pushback within his party, saying a ban on assault-style weapons would not affect those weapons already purchased.

Toomey and Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pushed for her ouster GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe Fallout from Kavanaugh confirmation felt in Washington one year later MORE (D-W.Va.) co-authored background checks legislation in 2013 and the House passed a universal background check bill in February.

The Pennsylvania Republican said on Sunday that he's "hopeful" the legislation he co-authored may pass soon.

"Look I think there's momentum now we didn’t have before," he said, adding that there is "broader interest among Republican senators."

"I am hopeful and going to keep pushing," Toomey said.

Several Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump again vetoes resolution blocking national emergency for border wall Trump invites congressional leaders to meeting on Turkey MORE (D-Ky.), have said they won't support a bill that Trump has not said he would support.

Trump has flip-flopped on his support for a background check bill in recent weeks.

NBC host Chuck ToddCharles (Chuck) David ToddRand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter White House officials stand by Syria withdrawal, sanctions delay amid bipartisan pushback Sunday shows — Officials rush to Trump's defense on Syria, sanctions MORE asked Toomey if at some point Republicans have to force Trump's hand and vote on a bill.

"Well the problem is if we attempt to force the president's hand and pass something it very well might not pass," Toomey said.

--This report was updated at 11:55 a.m.