FILE PHOTO: Semi-automatic handguns are displayed at shop in New Castle, PA. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File) Gun Safety
FILE PHOTO: Semi-automatic handguns are displayed at shop in New Castle, PA. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

The National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups have spent more than $1 million electing Pennsylvania Republicans to the House, where they’ve opposed gun safety laws supported by the overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians.


In the aftermath of Tuesday’s horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, a preventable tragedy that left 19 students and 2 teachers dead, scores of Republican lawmakers have rushed to put out statements offering empty “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their families.

Several Republican congressmen from Pennsylvania are among those who’ve joined the thoughts and prayers brigade, offering condolences to families whose lives will never be the same while opposing gun safety bills that could help prevent mass shootings in the future.

In March 2021, the Democratic-led House passed two background check bills that would close loopholes that exist under current law and make it more difficult for felons, domestic abusers, and otherwise ineligible individuals to access firearms.

The first of those bills, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 (H.R. 8) would expand background checks for all gun sales and transfers. Under current law, licensed gun sellers are required to run potential buyers through an FBI database to prevent felons, domestic abusers, the severely mentally ill, and others who should be ineligible from buying or owning weapons.

But because of a loophole in the law, unlicensed gun dealers, including those who operate at gun shows or sell firearms online, are not required to conduct the same screenings. This bill would close the loophole and establish background check requirements for unlicensed gun dealers.

The Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 (H.R. 1446), meanwhile, would close another loophole that allows some people to buy guns without a background check if that screening is not completed within three days. The bill increases the amount of time from 3 business days to a minimum of 10 business days, that a licensed gun manufacturer or seller must wait to receive a background check before transferring a firearm to an unlicensed person.

Both bills passed the Democratic-controlled US House in March 2021 almost entirely with Democratic votes.

Here’s how every Pennsylvania House Republican voted on HR 1446 and HR 8, alongside how much money their campaigns have received from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun rights groups over the years in addition to the amount of money those groups independently spent to support their campaigns. All financial figures are based on data released by the Federal Federal Election Commission and compiled by OpenSecrets.org.

  • Yes Votes
    • Brian Fitzpatrick ($2,450)
  • No Votes
    • Mike Kelly ($428,472)
    • Lloyd Smucker ($243,542)
    • Scott Perry ($139,339)
    • Glenn Thompson ($79,788)
    • Guy Reschenthaler ($49,709)
    • John Joyce ($26,853)
    • Fred Keller ($22,698)
    • Dan Meuser ($20,921)

Put another way, the NRA and other gun rights groups have spent more than $1 million electing Pennsylvania Republicans who’ve opposed gun safety laws supported by the overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians.

That’s in addition to another $1.1 million spent to support Sen. Pat Toomey, a member of the Republican Senate caucus that prevented both House-passed bills from proceeding last year.

Republicans refused to support either background check bill and because Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema refused to reform the filibuster—an arcane Senate rule that effectively requires 60 votes to pass most legislation—the bills have languished ever since.

On Wednesday, Democratic leaders indicated they want to put forward more gun-related legislation following the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. They even expressed openness to working with Republicans.

But if Pennsylvania Republicans’ votes on HR 1446 and HR 8 and the past two decades of inaction are any indication, it’s unlikely the Republican Party will budge.