Joe Manchin: Time to act on guns

December 17, 2012

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), a conservative Democrat and National Rifle Association member, said Monday that after the shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, it's time to discuss new regulations on assault weapons. 

"I don't know anyone in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle," Manchin told MSNBC's "Morning Joe."  "I don't know anyone that needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting. I mean, these are things that need to be talked about."

Twenty children and six adults were killed Friday by a man firing a military-style semiautomatic weapon. The massacre, Manchin said, "changed the dialogue, and it should move beyond dialogue. We need action."

"Never before have we seen our babies slaughtered," the senator said. "Anybody that's a proud gun owner, anybody that's a proud member of the NRA, we're also proud parents. We're also proud grandparents."

He said the gun lobby should be part of that conversation. Manchin got an "A" rating and an endorsement from the NRA in both the 2010 special election and 2012 general election. In a memorable campaign ad, he shot a copy of a cap-and-trade bill with a rifle. 

“I want to call all our friends in NRA, and sit down,” he said. “Bring them into it. They have to be at the table. We all have to.” Manchin later told West Virginia radio host Hoppy Kercheval that he would ask the NRA about assault weapon restrictions and "why they would be objectionable, it sounds very reasonable." 

On Twitter Monday morning, Manchin emphasized his desire for action: 

On Sunday, "Meet the Press" host David Gregory said that NBC News reached out to "all 31 pro-gun rights senators" to hear their views and got no takers. Manchin's office says they were never contacted by the show. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) vowed Sunday to introduce legislation to ban assault weapons at the start of the next Congress. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) also called for reinstating the ban, which expired in 2004. Manchin told Kercheval he hadn't seen the legislation but that he was "eager to sit down" with Feinstein for a "productive conversation." 

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.
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Rachel Weiner · December 17, 2012