(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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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.