Pennsylvania Senate Race Could Come Down to Guns

Toomey might be the 'lesser of two evils' for gun owners

Pennsylvania Sen. Patrick J. Toomey had the support of the National Rifle Association before he backed background check legislation. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Despite his support for background checks, for many gun owners in Pennsylvania, Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey might be "the lesser of two evils" in his race against Democrat Katie McGinty.

Toomey previously had the support of the National Rifle Association in his Senate run in 2010. But after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Toomey teamed up with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, another senator who previously had the NRA's support, to push legislation on background checks.

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Gun rights groups in Pennsylvania are now forced to choose between Toomey, whom they see as a threat to the Second Amendment, and Democrat Katie McGinty, whom they see as a bigger threat.

David Sager, the president of Pennsylvanians for Self Protection, told The Associated Press that his group might not endorse Toomey, but will try to make it clear that he's the "lesser of two evils" in the Senate race.

Meanwhile, the northeastern Pennsylvania-based American Gun Owners Alliance is encouraging its members to support McGinty to make a point to other Republicans.

Founder David Dalton told the AP that if McGinty wins, as a freshman, she would be less powerful than Toomey who would be going into his second term.

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McGinty, has criticized Toomey's gun control record, calling it "paper-thin." But that record has earned the incumbent the support of the political action committees of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg respectively. The daughter of the principal killed at Sandy Hook has appeared in an ad for Toomey.

Toomey's position reflects a shift in the larger gun politics in the Keystone State.

In 2006, his Democratic colleague Sen. Bob Casey had an A rating from the NRA and a B+ when he ran for re-election six years later. But this year, Casey joined Senate Democrats in a June filibuster on gun control.

The race is rated a Tossup by The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.

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