Casey reflects on marriage equality, gun violence and other hot topics

Posted: April 22, 2013

DURING HIS 2012 campaign for re-election, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey was mysteriously absent from the headlines - so much so that Ed Rendell said he was running a "noncampaign."

Now, after cruising to victory, Casey seems to be all over the news. In December, the Democrat sacrificed his NRA-approved standing to rally behind new gun laws. And earlier this month, he announced that he is jumping the fence to support same-sex marriage.

Daily News reporter Sean Collins Walsh sat down with Casey last week in his Washington office (the same one John F. Kennedy occupied during his brief Senate career) to talk about his recent policy shifts and a few other things. They reconnected by phone Thursday so Casey could weigh in on this week's news out of Washington and Boston.

Q You recently changed your stance on gun control. And earlier this month, you came out in support of same-sex marriage. What's going on?

Obviously, the tragedy in Connecticut is something no one could have anticipated, and that tragedy is really what moved me to take a different approach to the issue of the Second Amendment and to re-think and re-examine a lot of the positions I've taken.

On marriage equality, that happened more gradually over time. The Supreme Court arguments began to generate a lot of discussion and I was getting a lot of questions from constituents. I felt I had to spend some time on this, so I actually spent part of a four-day vacation sitting down and writing things that I had thought about. I wanted to be able to put on paper what I was thinking.

Q Part of the Casey brand has always been moderation and not necessarily going with the party - in no small part because of your position on guns and issues related to your Catholic faith. Is that changing?

I'd leave to others to judge how I'm viewed and what are the implications of these decisions. But I don't think it indicates anything other than these are issues that are difficult.

I've been getting kind of lectures from people about my faith, and what my decision on marriage equality means to my faith. And I don't in any way begrudge people in their efforts to point out why they disagree, but what I won't tolerate is someone lecturing me on my faith.

Faith inspires me, it informs me about how we should treat people and view the world and what our obligations are, but I arrive at my position on issues based upon what I think is the best public policy.

Q Gun-control legislation, including the Toomey-Manchin background-check provision, seems to have failed in the Senate. Are you disappointed?

It was terribly disappointing. It would have been a much better day if the background checks passed. But that's not enough. To deal with gun violence, we've got to deal with the ammunition, the number of bullets available to one person at one time. In Newtown, the background checks wouldn't have helped at all there. Until we deal with this in a comprehensive way, unfortunately I don't think we can say we won't have more Newtowns.

Q What's been your reaction to the carnage in Boston?

My reaction just like everyone else is just real sadness but also outrage. The injuries some of these people suffered are the kind you only see on a battlefield.

I do know a little bit about Boston - mostly from my wife; she's from Belmont - and they're a tough people and they're resilient and you can tell how focused they are on bouncing back from this.

Q Gov. Corbett will face serious opposition next year. Do you think he's vulnerable?

Oh, I'll leave that up to the pundits.

Q Well, you're a statewide official and have the same constituency as him.

I ran for governor once and I try not to give analysis or commentary on how others should do it.

Q Where do you like to go in Philly?

Lots of places. I had the great fortune to work in Philadelphia as a Jesuit volunteer when I was right out of college, so I lived at 23rd and Tioga and taught at 17th and Thompson, at the Gesu. So every morning I would usually take the 33 bus, so I got pretty familiar with North Philly.

Q Got a favorite Big 5 team?

My daughter went to St. Joe's, so I have to express preference for them.


walshSE@phillynews.com

215-854-4172

@SeanWalshDN

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