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Photo from March for Our Lives at Penn

The newly formed March for Our Lives group at Penn held a meeting with United States Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to lobby for greater action against gun violence.

Three members of the group — Jay Falk, Michael Nevett, and Beatrice Forman — held a meeting with two of the Senator's staffers at his Center City office on Jan. 30, stressing the importance of passing a recently introduced bill that expands background checks on all gun sales.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), would require background checks on almost all firearm purchases nationwide, with the exception of transactions between law enforcement officers and close relatives.

Although the Pennsylvania senator has sponsored several gun control amendments, students of the Penn chapter said it was difficult to determine whether their recent trip to Toomey's office was successful in swaying the politician to support stricter gun control efforts.

Toomey has been involved in previous fights for stricter gun laws. In 2013, he and Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) introduced the Manchin-Toomey Bill, which expanded the scope of firearm background checks. But the bill failed to win enough votes to avoid a filibuster, and was voted down 54-46 mostly due to unfounded fears that it would create a national gun registry. 

Vice President of Penn's chapter of March For Our Lives and College freshman Jay Falk said one of the reasons the group chose to make the trip was because Toomey has been “very moderate” on the issue of gun reform in the past.

“This is an opportunity to show his constituents that he still cares about gun violence,” Falk said.

Toomey has described the issue of gun control as an "important matter of public safety," and has expressed his desire to enact legislation while also protecting Second Amendment rights.

The meeting was arranged by Penn’s March For Our Lives Advocacy Director and College freshman Michael Nevett, who was on the cover of Time magazine for his gun control activism. He said that given the current political climate and Democratic gains from the 2018 midterm elections, this was the right time to hold the meeting.

“Universal background checks have been a huge issue, and we finally have a House of Representatives that is going to act on it,” Nevett said of the newly inaugurated Democratic-majority House. “But I wanted to take that to the Senate, because people hadn’t really been focusing on [it].”

Although the issue of changing America's gun laws draws passion from both sides, the idea of universal background checks is uncontroversial among the American populace, with 97 percent of Americans supporting the idea in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. in 2018, according to a 2018 Quinnipiac University poll.

Penn's March For Our Lives chapter President and College sophomore Rachel Steinig, who did not attend the lobbying trip, said the purpose of the meeting was to “gauge whether or not [Toomey is] planning on supporting the universal background checks bill, and urge him to support it.”

Wharton junior Shoshanna Israel, who is not a member of the group but accompanied them to Toomey's office, said the significance of gun violence, as well as her previous experience interning on Capitol Hill, inspired her involvement with the group's meeting.

“You just gotta keep the pressure going,” Israel said.

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