Manchin on gun control: Newtown has 'changed me'
December 17th, 2012
09:53 AM ET
2 years ago

Manchin on gun control: Newtown has 'changed me'

(CNN) – Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia and "proud gun owner," said Monday he believes last week's Connecticut elementary school shooting should be the tipping point in the debate over limiting gun rights.

"Who would have ever thought, in America, or anywhere in the world, that children would be slaughtered?" he said on CNN's "Amanpour." "You know, that–it's changed me."

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Related: Sen-elect Joe Donnelly, pro-gun Democrat, now open to gun control measures

Manchin said he's committed to bringing "the dialogue that would bring a total change."

"And I mean a total change," he added.

While Democratic lawmakers took to the airwaves this weekend to call for congressional action on gun control, the few Republicans who did speak out pointed to numerous court cases that have upheld Second Amendment rights and said guns are needed as mechanisms for self-defense.

Manchin, who has an 'A' rating with the National Rifle Association, said the gun rights debate is not about vilifying the Second Amendment but a need to prevent another mass shooting like the one in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 20 children and six adults dead.

"It's time to move beyond rhetoric. We need to sit down and have a common sense discussion and move in a reasonable way," Manchin said earlier Monday on MSNBC.

His tone sounds markedly different from one of his television ads as a Senate nominee in 2010, when he used a rifle to put a bullet through the Cap and Trade bill. He was serving as the state's governor at the time.

The senator was re-elected this year and doesn't face another election until 2016, giving him ample room to take political stances unpopular with his base.

"I want to call all our friends in the NRA, sit down and bring them into it," he said. "We all have to be at the table."

Manchin also pointed to Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who announced Sunday she will re-introduce an assault weapons ban when Congress reconvenes in January.

"Anyone saying they don't want to talk and sit down and have that type of dialogue is wrong," he said.

The senator said he believes that "seeing the massacre of so many innocent children has changed" opinions.

His comments were echoed by another Senate Democrat with high marks from the NRA. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia said Monday it was time for both parties to meet in the middle on the issue.

"I've been a longtime supporter of Second Amendment rights. I believe every American has Second Amendment rights. The ability to hunt is part of our culture. I have an NRA rating of an 'A,' but enough is enough," he told WBBT, a local CNN affiliate in Richmond, Virginia.

"I join with what I hope what will be a majority of both Democrats and Republicans," he continued. "There should not be a Democrat or Republican position on this. It is time for this kind of senseless violence to end."

– CNN's Steve Brusk and Dan Merica contributed to this report.


Filed under: Connecticut • Gun rights • Joe Manchin
soundoff (170 Responses)
  1. kirk

    Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive."
    –Noah Webster,

    December 17, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  2. Daphine

    Again, all I hear are knee jerk emotional reactions to an awful situation. Has anyone here read the Feinstein anti-gun bill? I'm not willing to shredd my Constitution just for emotional gain by a politician. It's a slippery slope than none of us can afford to go down. We have hundreds gun laws on the books now. Has that helped? It's tragic and unfortunate but you cannot legislate absolute safety. My heart goes out to the families affected by the shooting but the mentally ill person that committed this atrocity would have found a way to carry out his evil plan irregardless of access to firearms. That's the reality. The guns didn't kill those children, a human being pulled the trigger. He could just as easily have drove his vehicle through the playground and accomplished the same end. Evil will find a way. That is what really needs to be addressed in our society.

    December 17, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  3. kirk

    ... to disarm the people – that was the best and most effectual way to enslave them."
    - George Mason

    December 17, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  4. kirk

    "[The Constitution preserves] the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation...(where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms."
    –James Madison,

    December 17, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  5. kirk

    "That the said Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms ... "

    - Samuel Adams

    December 17, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  6. Terrie Lynn Bittner

    Suggesting that we shouldn't ban guns (drugs, whatever) because people will get it anyway is slogan thinking, not real thinking. Under that philosophy, why have any laws at all, since people will break them? Our laws demonstrate our values and a nation without values isn't worth anything. We need to have values and a way to enforce those values, and valuing the life of a child over the unnecessary right to own a ridiculous number of guns more powerful than the average person needs is an important value.

    Few people are talking about banning guns–only regulating them. We regulate cars more than we regulate guns, and a car's main purpose is to transport, while a gun's main purpose is to kill. We need restrictions on the kinds of guns owned and on who can own them. We need gun owners to prove they know how to use a gun, the laws for using them (just as we do with cars) and how to keep others from accessing those guns. We also need them to prove they are emotionally and intellectually capable of using them correctly and that if others in our home are not, we have a proven plan in place to restrict access. People who allow someone else to use their guns can then be punished.

    Finally, we need to improve mental health care. A combination of these two will dramatically improve life span.

    Using China as an excuse doesn't work. The situation was not the same. In a classroom, if he had to kill each child one at a time with a knife, most would have escaped. In England, where gun ownership is nearly non-existent, even most police don't carry guns and don't want to. There is almost no gun crime. Gun crime is rampant here only because we treat guns as if they are sacred.

    December 17, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  7. Mike M.

    How many guns did Timothy McVeigh use in the Oklahoma City massacre? Banning any type of guns will only provide us with a false sense of security.

    December 17, 2012 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  8. GOP = Greed Over People

    All the 22 Chinese children were indeed attacked by a knife wielding assailant, the big difference between them and the 20 attacked in Sandy Hook?

    ALL the Chinese survived, and to those who think a life lived with scars is equal to death, may want to ask 20 sets of parents in Sandy Hook for their vote, before spouting such nonsense!

    December 17, 2012 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  9. rs

    It is time. The Gun Lobby isn't patroling its own ranks. The adults have to.

    December 17, 2012 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  10. Ralph Ziggy

    Larry L said "The 2nd Amendment was never written as a tool to enable radials to threaten our government with seditious acts." Larry L, you are ignorant of the founding father's writings, the 2nd amendment was to protect against "tyrrany at home and enemies abroad". Note which is #1 reason.

    The vast majority of murders are done by handguns. The vast majority of violent crimes are by a few subcultures we have in the USA. Take away those from the statistics and all of a sudden we have a violent crime rate that looks like europe. but no one wants to talk about who is really committing most of the violent crime including gun crime in this country.

    December 17, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  11. rs

    liberal-
    Great- I'll support every citizen owningand having access to a circa 1790 musket. Nothing else.

    December 17, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  12. judy

    the nra and repos are surprising quiet on this tragedy. We need to have this conversation with out scaring people into thinking we are taking away their guns and right to bear arms . I don't know of any sport that requires 30+ ammo clips .We have heard all the stories about people killing people not guns but if we can slow down the assaults or save one life be need to try something.

    December 17, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  13. Tony in Maine

    I can't believe that anyone with enough brains to find a gun store believes he or she would stand the chance of a snowball in Hell against a well trained and armed soldier.

    December 17, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  14. The Real Tom Paine

    Any responsible gun owner, particularly someone who hunts, should be appalled at the idea that putting limits on gun ownership is a subject not up for discussion. Not everyone is responsible enough to own a gun, much less having access to clips of up to 60 rounds for a semi-automatic rifle or pistol. At that point, its beyond protection and enters the realm of the psychotic hoarder.

    December 17, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  15. RandyIA

    Hey all keep in mind that carrying a gun in Mexico is illegal, look how well that goes over.

    December 17, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  16. CanadaONE

    out of a DEEP respect for thse kids THE TRUTH MUST BE KNOWN

    1. American have more guns per household per cpaita than any other nation
    2. More Americans die per capita by the use of guns than any other nation
    3. Americans have killed more Americans by gun use than any country waring againt America -EVER

    What do you think you should do? get more guns or less guns?

    December 17, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  17. PJ

    Checked the NRA website. NOT ONE WORD of sorrow, compassion, or sympathy for those precious people
    gunned down. If anything was there, I could not find it.
    They can get loud when they think their "right" to bear arms is being threatened, which it is not.
    They can spend enormous amounts of money to threaten lawmakers who go against them.
    Yet, they can't offer any words of sympathy?
    You can bet we will hear from them when Diane Feinstein introduces her bill.
    I hope Manchin stands by his words and joins her.

    December 17, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  18. nothing new here

    I am an Independent/Libertarian that believes in limited government and individual rights –
    But even I believe that NOW is the time to start turning this country around, hopefully for the better.
    We have become too callous and too desensitized to endless violence. We no longer demand accountability from our elected officials, and other public leaders.
    In the past, people were not perfect. Yet people had the decency to keep their issues to themselves, and to not take our their problems on others, esp. with random shootings. I don't expect people to adhere to any particular religious belief, we should be a country that embraces freedom to believe, or not believe.
    But we definetely need to start demanding better of ourselves, and our leaders.

    December 17, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  19. Pragmatic Man

    There needs to be a correction on comments on the China incident from others. Not ONE person died, not ONE, despite 22 injured people. The children are all alive, the teachers all alive, and the attacker is sitting in jail.

    December 17, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  20. Matt A

    Why do we have to be so ridiculously bound to a constitution that was put in place 200 yrs ago? We need laws that represent the cultural relevancy of the present era in which we live! Move on America! Evolve! The thought of automatic weapons on our streets, with the degree of mental illness in our society should horrify each and every one of us!

    December 17, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  21. Tom1940

    Sen Manchin is absolutely correct. The legislators need to sit down at the table and talk. Firearms Legislation should not be the topic. Mental health, community health, outreach for identification, cause and effect matters, all of these things should be on the table. Firearms control should not. The finger on the trigger is the place to start and work from there. If "instruments" of mass destruction and death of numerous persons in our society is the issue then let us totally ban private automobiles! These are the "cause" of carnage, injury, death and maiming on a scale far exceeding war and
    individual acts of violence. Instead, we, as a society, have chosen to go after the felony drunk driver, the old-age driver
    and putting the emphasis where it belongs. On the individual! The method or choice of how they commit violence is not the issue. Their motivation – i.e. cause and effect – is! What triggers these actions? Can we, (as a society), prevent rather than clean up the mess afterwards? Wringing our hands, and seeking simplistic solutions such as banning firearms, instead of getting at the root cause of the problem is a path to finding solutions, not dead-ends that will not work.

    December 17, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  22. CA Independent

    Judy, did you cheer when you knew that Democrats would use this terrible tragedy to pursue gun legislation? Legislation that would have zero effect on the terrible incident that occurred in Connecticut.

    December 17, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  23. Nononsense

    A new law are you kidding me? The murdered at Sandy Hook was already breaking laws,,so you really think this *action* is going to have any measurable effect? Seriously you people live in a dreamworld. Gee, my two guns can have clips that hold only 5 rounds,,so let me bring 6 guns that are loaded,,to make up for it,,are you nuts? This is bleating goofiness. Not one of your gun control freaks wants to even discuss the other side of the equation. Not one. Defense! The patrols at the schools have been stepped up now,,are you going to scream at the police for doing that? That's actually a GOOD idea. Why not have it in place all the time? Why not have a trained and armed presence watching over our children or do you heartless people think cash in a bag is the only thing that deserves an armed escort? Honestly,,,you still want to put our precious children in gun free zones (yeh that works,,another worthless law) and you want them to remain sitting duck targets and delude yourselves that limiting the size of a clip is going to do MORE than armed protection would do. Why did this shooter stop? Was he out of bullets? NO..he stopped because an armed presence showed up. No dispute. There is no honest conversation if that point is not at least considered.

    December 17, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  24. Rudy NYC

    The framers of the Constitution meant that you had the right to own a MUSKET, which is a firearm. They had no concept of bullets, interchangeable parts, mass production, nor automatic or semi-automatic WEAPONS.

    December 17, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  25. Facts don't Lie

    I find it amazing that reading some comments from people I guess you want to call "pro-gun" say that new laws won't do anything...so I guess then we should just do NOTHING and accept what comes our way.

    December 17, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
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