Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Bob Casey, a longtime champion of guns rights, has changed his stance in regards to new legislation on guns in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Senator Casey said he is “haunted” by last week’s events.
The Inquirer spoke with Senator Casey who was a longtime champion of guns rights in the US, but has since been forced to reconsider his stance. Some bidding from his wife, as well as an unusually emotional reaction from the Senator, in the wake of Sandy Hook also helped to nudge him in that direction.
"The power of the weapon, the number of bullets that hit each child, that was so, to me, just so chilling, it haunts me. It should haunt every public official," said Sen. Casey in an interview.
Sen. Casey was re-elected just last month on the platform that he did not support more gun control legislation. Political analysts now say that he has “time on his side” as he heads into his second term, which will last six years.
Naturally, the Sandy Hook tragedy has forced a shift in many politicians’ views on gun control. Democrats have called for reinstating the assault-weapons ban and barring magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Senator Casey is joined by once pro-gun Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia in saying that they are open to considering new legislation limiting gun access.
"If those two bills come before the Senate, I'll vote for both," said Casey, a move that was “summoned” by his conscience.
"Work that we do doesn't always bring you to that kind of deliberation or consideration. This has, for me, and I have to, and I think I should, vote that way on those two (measures)," he said.
Senator Casey, who is still a “strong” supporter of the Second Amendment, had said following the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 that "No man-made law will ever eliminate cruelty and evil from every human heart.” The Newtown shooting has since, evidently, changed his mind.
When asked why he hadn’t reconsidered his stance earlier, Sen. Casey touched upon the fact that the tender age of the children killed at Newtown put it into a new perspective for him.
"I wish that maybe I had spent more time thinking about those other tragedies in the way that I have on this,” said Sen. Casey.
"There's no question I'll be open to criticism, and I understand that," Casey said. "I just believe that in light of what's happened, in light of measures we can take to lessen the chances that will happen [again], that these are two steps we can take."
And that criticism has already begun. Kim Stolfer, chairman of the Pennsylvania-based Firearms Owners Against Crime, said on Wednesday evening that Sen. Casey is now "a political opportunist seeking to curry favor with a public that knows nothing about the current level of laws."
She continued, "Firearms are the most regulated commodity in this nation. Our rights are not meant to be toyed with at a moment's whim, and we don't predicate freedoms on what others do."
Sen. Casey is characterized for his often strictly analytical movements, but once again, the distinct tragedy of Sandy Hook has swayed his emotions.
"This isn't a tax debate. This is different," he said.
"I've been around government and public policy a long time, and I can't think of another time when I had these same feelings. I don't really care if people criticize me for having emotions about this. It probably helped me think about it in a different way."