Manchin: Time for a serious conversation about guns - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Manchin: Time for a serious conversation about guns

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As a lifelong hunter and member of the National Rifle Association, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., says he knows how to use guns in a safe, responsible manner.

But the same doesn't hold true for everyone.

Manchin spoke to members of the press Monday, just three days after a lone gunman shot and killed 28 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The massacre lit a fire under Manchin, who said now is the time to have a conversation about not only gun control, but also the culture of violence in America.

"I never thought in my life I'd see this kind of attack on our children, of any type," he said. "It's hard for me to comprehend, hard for me to get my thoughts around this."

Manchin is just one of several members of Congress who is pressing for changes. Sen. Joe Leiberman, I-Conn., is calling for a national commission on violence to look at violent movies and video games, while Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she would introduce new legislation to revitalize the ban on assault weapons. The 10-year ban on such weapons expired in 2004, and Manchin said he wasn't sure why Congress didn't reauthorize the ban.

"I don't know why it came off," he said. "I don't know the statistics of what happened in that period of time."

Manchin did say, however, that he is "anxious" to see Feinstein's bill, but he wouldn't say if he supports the legislation.

"I haven't gone that direction because I just don't know enough," he said.

The NRA has been silent thus far, although the group did remove its Facebook page. Manchin, who has consistently received an A rating from the NRA throughout his political career, said he wants the organization to be part of the conversation.

"There are people waiting to pounce on them, people waiting to villinize them," Manchin said. "That's the wrong approach. You're not going to get any meaningful changes if you demonize the people you should be working with."

But guns aren't the only culprit in the mass shooting. Officials believe the gunman, Adam Lanza, may have experienced one or more mental illnesses. That is one other topic that needs to be addressed, Manchin said.

"Its unfathomable to think that with all the people who need help as far as mental illness and we've cut back in so many ways the funding," he said.

But the buck shouldn't stop with people who have mental illnesses, Manchin said. However, he said he doesn't see any way to legislate family responsibility.

"I don't know how you legislate responsible behavior among family members," he said. "We've got to be careful about what we talk about, but we've got to talk about it."

While mental health may be a topic in the forefront now, it's not always that way. The federal government has already pulled money from mental health programs and may continue to cut budgets in an effort to curb government spending. As with anything, Manchin said, programs for those with mental illnesses takes money.

"If you can't pay for it, you can't do it," he said. "If we're talking about truly giving help to the mentally ill, you have to pay for it. We can't do it if we don't get our finances in order."

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