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Yes, I know Senator Bob Casey Jr. (D. PA) is not up for re-election in 2014.  He was just re-elected to a second term this past election.  But with the aftermath of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary and talks of gun control legislation, I felt this news story, especially since I'm a Pennsylvanian, deserved a diary:

Sen. Bob Casey, who has long opposed new gun laws, said Wednesday that he had changed his views in the aftermath of last week's shootings in Newtown, Conn., and would support bills to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

In an interview in his office, the ordinarily staid Casey (D., Pa.) told The Inquirer that he was "haunted" by the images and reports of children killed in their school, and teachers slain trying to protect them. He said his wife confronted him as he reassessed the issue over the weekend.

Furrowing his brow and casting his eyes downward, Casey expressed regret that he had not reconsidered his views as starkly after earlier massacres at Virginia Tech and in Aurora, Colo.

"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 Casey, who won a second term six weeks ago while touting his opposition to gun control. - Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/20/12
Yes it would've been nice if Senator Casey's views towards gun control had changed early on but in a heavily pro-gun rights state like Pennsylvania, this really is big news.  Casey is going the ranks of other pro-gun Senators like Mark Warner of Virginia, Harry Reid of Nevada, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia in his change of stance on gun control.  Casey assured reporters that if the reinstating the assault-weapons ban and barring magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition come up in the Senate, he will vote for both of them:
"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. - Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/20/12
Casey had long been a guns rights advocate in the Senate usually bucking his party on votes regarding gun control.  Even after the Virginia Tech shooting, Casey made this statement about why he wouldn't support new gun regulations back in 2007:
"No man-made law will ever eliminate cruelty and evil from every human heart," and argued against new gun laws.

He made similar comments in July after a rampage that killed 12 at a movie theater in Aurora, and he reiterated his opposition to new regulations in a debate shortly before Election Day. - Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/20/12

But after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, it was a real wake up call for Casey:
On Wednesday, Casey was asked why he did not reevaluate his stand after those earlier killings.
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 10: Senator Bob Casey attends America's Report Card 2012: Children in the U.S. event at Russell Senate Office Building on October 10, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/Getty Images)
"We're all open to that charge, and that's a fair question. That should weigh on us as well, any public official in my position," he said. The killing of children so young makes Newtown feel different, Casey said, but he noted that that view was unfair to families of those who died in other assaults.

Pausing for a few seconds as he searched for words, he said: "I wish that maybe I had spent more time thinking about those other tragedies in the way that I have on this." - Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/20/12

Casey has received an "A" and B-Plus" rating from the National Rifle Association and gun rights is a big issue in the Keystone State.  Gun control has been an issue that cost Democrats like Senator Joseph S. Clark (D) a third term in 1968 and appointed Senator Harris Wofford (D) his seat in 1994.  Already, Casey is starting to receive criticism from gun rights advocates in Pennsylvania.  Kim Stolfer, chairman of the Pennsylvania-based Firearms Owners Against Crime, has accused Casey of being a political opportunist seeking to curry favor with a public that knows nothing about the current level of laws."

Casey understands the consequences he could face for supporting gun control regulations and being accused of flip flopping on this issue but Casey is prepared for that:

"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."

"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," he said. "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."

Casey said he did not know what the potential fallout might be.

"Others can probably analyze that better than I can," he said, "but I know what I have to do on this." - Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/20/12

Casey said he was transfixed by the CNN story about Newtown teacher Victoria Soto who was killed trying to protect her students.  Witnessing Soto's sister express her grief was a real wake up call:
"That hit me very, very hard," he said. "I started thinking about my daughters, the way they get along, the way they love each other." His four daughters range in age from 16 to 24. - Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/20/12
If there is anyone we have to thank for pushing Casey to get behind gun control, it's Casey's wife Terese who challenged her husband to change his stance on gun control:
"She confronted me several times," he said. "She was very direct and persistent." - Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/20/12
Now I may not agree with Casey on everything but I was a strong supporter of him in 2006 and I have written a lot about his re-election campaign this past year.  I have always been proud to have Casey as my home state Senator and I believe him when his stance truly has changed.  I don't balm anyone here for wanting to still criticize Casey for not supporting gun control early on and even Casey acknowledges that he deserves such criticism but here's a little background on Casey that shows he's an authentic Pennsylvanian, especially on his past stance on gun control:
Despite his shift, Casey said he believes hunting is a "family tradition" in Pennsylvania and that people's right to have firearms to protect themselves and their homes should be respected. He does not own a gun or hunt, but while growing up in Scranton, Casey, 52, said, guns were neither unusual nor controversial.

"There weren't a lot of negative connotations attached to it," he said. - Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/20/12

I applaud Casey for finally seeing the light on this issue and being bold enough to come out in support of new control laws and reinstating old ones.  Please take a moment to call his office and urge to stay true to his promise and support gun control:

(202) 224-6324

Also urge him to stand strong on protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  If you're a Pennsylvania resident, feel free to contact his local offices as well:

Philadelphia: (215) 405-9660

Northeastern PA: (570) 941-0930

Erie: (814) 874-5080

Harrisburg: (717) 231-7540

Pittsburgh: (412) 803-7370

Central PA: (814) 357-0314

Lehigh Valley: (610) 782-9470

Originally posted to pdc on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 05:30 PM PST.

Also republished by DKos Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Area Kossacks, and The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

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