Sen. Pat Toomey (R–Pa.) has taken a lot of heat from fellow conservatives in the last week when, following mounting pressure from advocates and fellow politicians, he introduced bipartisan legislation with Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) to mandate universal gun sale background checks while explicitly preventing the establishment of a federal gun registry.
But Toomey has received support from an unlikely source.
The Philadelphia-based Independence Hall Tea Party Association, which bills itself as the oldest and largest Tea Party group in the tri-state area, last week released a statement defending Toomey.
Though the party has a "neutral position" when it comes to the legislation itself, members reject claims that Toomey sold out the Second Amendment in its crafting.
"While we understand the legitimate concerns of many of our friends in the center/right coalition, we also think that Sen. Toomey, by taking a leadership role in developing this bill, has done a superb job in defending the Second Amendment from those liberal Democrats who support outright bans on certain weapons and on magazines," Independence Hall Tea Party Association President Teri Adams said, noting party members support universal background checks by a 2-1 margin, per a poll conducted in February.
"Sen. Toomey's bill creates a defensive national registry to deter the sale of weapons to terrorists, criminals and the mentally disabled," she said.
"The law does not establish a proactive national registry of gun owners – as some on the right have argued."
She said while the group has chosen to remain neutral when it comes to supporting the bill, members won't allow personal attacks on Toomey "by some national conservative leaders and organizations" to go unanswered.
"Sen. Toomey, in just a few short years in the U.S. Senate, has developed such an amazing record that we believe he is one of the best U.S. senators to ever represent the Keystone State," Adams said, citing accomplishments such as Toomey authoring an austere federal budget that would have lowered tax rates, holding firm on the sequester and advocating for veterans and their families.
"We stand firmly behind Sen. Toomey and his leadership – even when, on that rare occasion, we disagree with him."