JOHNSTOWN - Area tea party members said U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., has turned his back on his constituents by proposing additional gun control legislation.
About 50 tea party members rallied outside Toomey's Johnstown office Tuesday in opposition to the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act.
"The tea party was instrumental in helping Toomey get elected," said David A. Noll, vice president of the Bedford County Patriots Tea Party. "We feel he betrayed us."
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Gary Leach (left) of Marion Center and Jim Ray and his wife, Pat, of Penn Run, all of Indiana County, wave flags outside the Johnstown office of Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., on Tuesday. The tea party event was against a bipartisan deal on expanding background checks to more gun buyers.
The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act was co-authored by Toomey and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. The proposal was hailed as a bipartisan compromise on gun control and enhanced background checks for firearm purchases in the wake of Sandy Hook and other mass shootings.
But the proposal has drawn the ire of conservatives, including tea party members, who have blasted Toomey for infringing upon Americans' Second Amendment rights.
Holding signs that read "Pat Toomey, you are fired," "No guns, no freedoms" and "2nd Amendment: the original Homeland Security," the group said Toomey ignored his constituents in crafting the proposed legislation.
"We want him to recall that legislation," Noll said. "We don't need any new gun legislation."
According to Toomey, the proposal is designed to strengthen the national background check system.
The legislation would require background checks for all gun purchases made online or at gun shows and would establish a national commission to examine the causes of mass violence.
The bill is not designed to ban any types of firearms, limit ammunition magazine sizes or create a national firearms registry, according to Toomey's website.
"The bill will not, in any way at all, infringe upon the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens," according to the senator's website.
But tea party members said the legislation opens the door to creating new legislation that could compromise gun owners' rights.
"It's a slippery slope," said Caludine Matesa, a tea party member from Murrysville. "Hopefully he'll reconsider what he's doing."
The broad wording of the legislation and possibility of a national gun registry were a concern for tea party members, said Pittsburgh resident Karen Toft.
Matesa and Toft held signs that read "Criminals do not follow gun laws," and on the back, "No new gun laws: enforce the ones we have."
Toomey was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, said John P. Frick Jr., Toomey's regional manager.
Frick said he would not comment on the legislation being questioned by tea party members on Tuesday.
But Frick mingled with protesters outside Toomey's office and met with small groups of tea party members throughout the afternoon.
"The bottom line is, they have their right to assemble," Frick said. "We will take their message to Sen. Toomey."
University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown students Cliff Maloney and Joel Black said they both campaigned for Toomey, but his recent proposal was cause for concern.
Holding a sign that read "Tell me more about how criminals follow laws," Maloney said additional gun legislation would only hurt law-abiding gun owners.
Black said existing gun laws need to be enforced.
To the students, the rally outside Toomey's office was about one thing.
"Liberty," Maloney said.
Toomey is scheduled to hold a conference call with members of the media to discuss the proposed background check legislation this morning.
Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.