Where Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation stands on gun control
On March 24, students in Philadelphia and several hundred other places across the U.S. took to the streets to renew and strengthen their calls for a political solution to gun violence. The March for Our Lives demonstrations come on the tail of the shooting that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and just weeks shy of the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre.
Where do elected officials who represent Pennsylvania om Washington stand on the issue?
We reached out to all 20 members of Pennsylvania’s U.S. congressional delegation to see where they stood on gun control and whether they’d be participating in any of this weekend’s marches. Most of our inquiries were met with no response.
Those we did receive are noted below, along with information compiled from previous reports. Here is a comprehensive overview of where U.S. legislators from Pa. stand on gun control.
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)
NRA rating: B+
On March for Our Lives: Casey’s office said he’ll be attending Philly’s March for Our Lives this weekend in support of what Casey calls “common-sense gun reform to help prevent mass shootings and the ongoing gun violence in Philadelphia.”
On gun control: “I voted to expand background checks, ban assault weapons and limit magazine capacity. I’ve also voted to close the terror loophole, to prevent people on the Terrorist Watch List from getting their hands on firearms. We need to take measures to stop mass shootings and the deadly gun violence on the streets of our cities and towns every day. I will join the young people of Philadelphia and members of my staff will be present at marches across the state on Saturday to say ‘enough.’”
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)
NRA rating: C (Here’s why.)
On March for Our Lives: Toomey’s office said he would not be attending any of this weekend’s marches. “The Senate may be in session and he has a funeral he is attending on Saturday for a friend that recently passed away,” spokesperson Steve Kelly explained by email on Thursday.
On gun control: Per Toomey’s office, “In 2013, Senator Toomey and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced legislation [the so-called Toomey-Manchin bill] that sought to strengthen the background check process by extending requirements to all commercial sales, including those made over the internet and at gun shows. It represented the closest that the Senate has come to making progress on gun safety in decades. The measure has been re-introduced and voted on subsequently. [There was recently talk of reviving it yet again.] As Senator Toomey’s focus on gun safety legislation revolves around keeping guns away from those who shouldn’t have them, he is skeptical of banning popular types of firearms outright.”
Bob Brady (D-PA-01) / retiring
NRA rating: F-minus and “proud of it”
On March for Our Lives: Brady said he plans to join the march in Philly.
On gun control: Brady told The Incline by phone, “I now have an ‘F-minus’ rating from the NRA, which I’m proud of, and I’m 100 percent for extended background checks. I’m 100 percent for no multiple clips. I’m for an assault weapons ban. I’m for banning bump stocks. I’m for one gun a month. There’s no reason for people to buy multiple guns [in the same month] if they’re on sale, and that’ll stop people from putting these guns out on the streets.”
Said the Toomey-Manchin bill “doesn’t go far enough.”
Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA-02)
NRA rating: F
On March for Our Lives: Evans will attend the March for Our Lives in Philadelphia.
On gun control: Evans has participated in a rally on the Capitol steps for “common sense gun reform” and released a statement after the Las Vegas shooting in October that called on the nation “to come together as a nation to fully heal and grasp what has happened and why this has happened.” His office said he supports universal background checks, raising the minimum age to 21 to buy a gun/rifle, gun violence restraining orders, the assault weapons ban, enforcing magazine limits and banning bump stocks.
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA-03)
NRA rating: A
On March for Our Lives: Per his office, “Rep. Kelly will not be attending the march this weekend.”
On gun control: “I agree with most Americans that changes must be made to better protect innocent people from homicidal attackers, especially children in schools and other vulnerable settings. That is why I recently joined my House colleagues in passing the STOP School Violence Act to give students, teachers, and police more tools to actively identify a potential attacker and access to more technology to prevent an attack from happening. As this passionate debate continues, we must focus on solutions that will actually make a difference in preserving life while respecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. Those taking part in this weekend’s demonstrations are right to be disturbed by gun violence and need to be heard. In our shared pursuit for a society that respects each person’s dignity and treats each other’s life as sacred, I wholeheartedly encourage them to also come to Washington next January for the annual March for Life. As united citizens of all ages, we can seize upon our common concerns and build a safe and secure future for all.”
The STOP School Violence Act is a bill authorizing the Department of Justice to shift roughly $50 million in existing grant funds to state and local governments for school violence prevention. It has bipartisan support, but critics say it fails address the real problem — guns. The measure is also supported by the NRA.
Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA-04)
NRA rating: A
On March for Our Lives: Perry’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
On gun control: Following the murder of 58 concertgoers in Las Vegas in October, Perry said, “Once again, the call will be ‘more gun control!‘ which isn’t the answer and fails to identify the real issue. Infringing on the Constitutional rights of millions of legal gun owners and giving a false sense of security to the public is not the solution.”
After the Parkland shooting, Perry said he supported the STOP School Violence Act, the same legislation referenced by Kelly above. (That bill was approved by the House earlier this month.)
“As the father of two young children in public schools, these shootings are every parent’s worst nightmare. Students must be able to learn in a safe and secure environment. While I’m unapologetically pro-2nd Amendment, we need to do more to protect our kids while they’re in school,” Perry said in a statement. “This is a common sense proposal that should be advanced while we examine comprehensive solutions to the larger problem.”
Despite a bipartisan vote in favor of the STOP School Violence measure, Democrats urged Republicans to vote on additional measures to prevent gun violence, such as universal background checks. That has yet to happen.
Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA-05)
NRA rating: A
On March for Our Lives: Thompson’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
On gun control: According to The Daily Beast, Thompson has said gun laws won’t make America safer and has one of the highest totals of votes against gun reform measures in Congress. Thompson has said he has “a deep belief in the right to bear arms.” He’s also voted in favor of a bill allowing veterans to register unlicensed guns acquired abroad, a bill to develop nationwide concealed carry reciprocity between states and a bill overturning an Obama-era executive order that supporters said made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun.
Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA-06)
NRA rating: A (likely to drop)
On March for Our Lives: Costello’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
On gun control: “Since coming to Congress, I have supported a number of commonsense and constitutional measures to reduce gun violence in society. From banning bump stocks to increasing and enhancing background checks to voting against concealed carry reciprocity measures. And I will continue to do so. Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to this problem. This will take a comprehensive commitment at all levels of government and civil society, and we must work together to foster a healthy, productive, and open dialogue on how we can prevent incidents of violence before they occur.”
(Even the NRA expressed support for further regulations of bump stocks after Vegas in a move CNN Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza dismissed as “a strategic ploy.”)
Costello also cosponsored H.R. 4909, the STOP School Violence Act.
Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA-07) / will not seek reelection
NRA rating: B-
On March for Our Lives: Meehan’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
On gun control: In October, Meehan signed on to a Republican-led “bump stock ban.” In November, he reintroduced the NICS Denial Notification Act, to “help law enforcement better enforce current gun laws by establishing an alert system to notify state and local law enforcement when criminals break the law attempting to acquire a gun.” But Meehan has been criticized by gun control advocates who wanted to see him go further in supporting an assault weapons ban.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-08)
NRA rating: B
On March for Our Lives: Fitzpatrick’s office did not respond to a request for comment about whether he’d be attending or not.
On gun control: His office did supply a list of Fitzpatrick’s firearms-related initiatives. They include his introduction and announced support for repealing the so-called Dickey Amendment, raising the legal age to purchase semiautomatic rifles to 21, as well as allowing families the ability to seek a temporary “gun violence prevention order” for a relative who poses a threat to themselves or others. Fitzpatrick, at times at odds with his own party, has also supported expanded background checks, a ban on “bump stocks” and a bill that would in effect allow the CDC to conduct research into gun injury prevention or control. Fitzpatrick is Pennsylvania’s only Republican member of Congress to have received no donations from the NRA, according to the Meadville Tribune.
Rep. Bill Schuster (R-PA-09) / stepping down at the end of this term
NRA rating: A
On March for Our Lives: Schuster’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
On gun control: Today the people’s House acted in a strong bipartisan way to secure schools and protect vulnerable students. The #STOPSchoolViolenceAct passed 407-10 and will empower local officials and schools to identify and prevent safety threats before they become senseless tragedies.
Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA-10)
NRA rating: A
On March for Our Lives: Marino’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
On gun control: On this subject, Marino has long been unequivocal. “Our founders knew the importance of armed citizens to protect against tyranny, and our government should never restrict the right to bear arms. […] Like so many people across America, I admire the foresight and wisdom of our Founding Fathers. These patriots knew a law abiding and armed citizenry was vital to assuring our republic was safe from tyranny and capable of protecting our families and property. This is just as important now as it was during the birth of America. I will always support and defend the 2nd Amendment and the right of our citizens to lawfully bear arms.”
Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA-11) / running for Senate
NRA rating: A
On March for Our Lives: Barletta will not be in attendance at any of this weekend’s marches.
On gun control: Asked for Bartletta’s positions on gun control measures currently being considered or discussed inside the Capitol, Communications Director David Jackson offered this statement on the congressman’s behalf: “Congressman Barletta believes that no student in America should go to school in fear and no parent should send their child to school wondering if they will ever see them again. That’s why he has called on the Administration to declare schools as 17th category of ‘critical infrastructure.’ This designation would pool our nation’s resources and expert capabilities to help communities protect our children by providing support and flexibility to local school administrators and law enforcement to adopt the policies best suited for their schools. As Americans march across the country this weekend about school safety, securing our schools must be the top priority.”
The response made no mention of tougher gun laws.
Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12)
NRA rating: A
On March for Our Lives: Rothfus’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
On gun control: Rothfus has called for existing gun laws to be more readily enforced and questioned the need for additional gun control measures. Rothfus also voted to overturn an Obama-era regulation that supporters said made it harder for mentally ill individuals to get guns. Rothfus and others in Congress opposed to the bill — all of them Republicans — called it an example of executive overreach and a threat to the constitutional rights of Americans and an attack on law-abiding people with disabilities.
Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA-13)
NRA rating: F
On March for Our Lives: Per Boyle’s office, “The Congressman will be traveling out of state all weekend, and unfortunately will not be able to take part in any of the regional marches or the DC March. He wanted to participate. He will be elevating those marching on his social media platforms and showing his support from afar.”
On gun control: Boyle has spoken publicly about the need for “real gun safety laws” and participated in the House’s gun violence sit-in after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando in 2016. Boyle is also a member of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.
His office added, “Congressman Boyle has been a longstanding advocate for gun violence [legislation]. He participated in the House sit in and supported the ‘No Fly; No Buy’ legislation.”
Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA-14)
NRA rating: F
On March for Our Lives: TribLive.com reports Doyle will join marchers in Pittsburgh on Saturday.
On gun control: Doyle supports an assault weapons ban, closing the so-called “gun show loophole” and other gun control measures. “I firmly believe that there are policies the federal government can adopt to reduce the number of homicides committed in our country each year, and I am working actively in Congress to have them enacted into law.”
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA-15) / retiring
NRA rating: Unavailable
On March for Our Lives: Dent’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
On gun control: Dent sponsored a bill to ban bump stocks after the shooting in Vegas. (On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Department of Justice is officially proposing a change to federal regulations to effectively ban bump stock devices, CBS News reported.) On the heels of Parkland, Dent also endorsed raising the legal age to purchase semiautomatic rifles to 21, the same age for pistols, and another to bolster enforcement of the existing background check system. Dent was previously endorsed by the NRA, which called him “a staunch defender of the Second Amendment freedoms of law-abiding gun owners, hunters and sportsmen in Pennsylvania and across America.” Dent has also said he supports measures to make sure mental health records are entered into national databases for background checks, The Morning Call reported.
Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA-16)
NRA rating: A
On March for Our Lives: Smucker’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
On gun control: According to a New York Times editorial, Smucker has one of the highest totals in the House — $221,736 reportedly — of career NRA contributions. Smucker was only elected to the House in 2016 and was previously a member of the state Senate. After the Parkland shootings, Smucker cautioned against blaming advocacy groups like the NRA for such violence and pointed to the holes in pre-existing law enforcement systems that failed to prevent it. Smucker has also expressed support for strengthening existing background requirements for gun purchases and outlawing “bump stocks.” Both are points of view shared by the NRA.
Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA-17)
NRA rating: F
On March for Our Lives: Cartwright’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
On gun control: In June of 2016, after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Cartwright joined dozens of his Democratic colleagues in a sit-in that shut down legislative action on the U.S. House floor Wednesday in an effort to secure votes on gun-control bills. This year, Cartwright supported expanding background checks to gun shows and online sales. He also expressed support for a ban on assault weapons, for blocking gun purchases for those on no-fly lists, and for courts to “red flag” and temporarily prevent prevent those deemed dangerous from having or buying guns.
Conor Lamb, D / projected winner of this month’s special election in District 18
NRA rating: N/A
On March for Our Lives: Expected to attend Saturday’s march in Pittsburgh, per TribLive.
On gun control: Wants to focus on “fixing the background check system” that currently exists and enforcing those laws already on the books. Backed universal background checks after Parkland but stopped short of supporting a ban on assault weapons like AR-15s. Lamb told TribLive in February that new gun laws aren’t the answer to preventing more mass shootings like the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Lamb said he doesn’t support raising the age limit for rifle purchases to 21, but could eventually be open to the idea.