(CNN) – Sen. Joe Manchin is firing back after the National Rifle Association targeted the conservative Democrat in a television commercial last week.
The senator from West Virginia said Thursday morning the NRA is using "paranoia" to keep lawmakers from making big moves on gun control, following the Newtown elementary school shooting in December that left 20 children and six adults dead.
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"Why do we ask to be policy makers and be involved in the public process, when…we're afraid basically to engage," he said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "I'm not afraid to engage. The worst they can do is defeat me and send me home to my family and the state I love, West Virginia. That's a pretty good consolation. What are we afraid of?"
Manchin released an ad Thursday defending himself against the recent attack from the NRA. A leading voice in the fight for expanded background checks for firearm purchases, Manchin says in the ad that he "hasn't changed" on his stance for Second Amendment rights and simply wants to bring "common sense" to Washington.
"I'm a lifetime NRA member, but I don't walk in lockstep with the NRA's Washington leadership, this administration or any special interest group," he says, wielding a gun throughout the spot. "West Virginia, you know me. I haven't changed and you know I've always fought for our gun rights. I believe that we can protect the Second Amendment and make the community safer. I think most law abiding gun owners agree."
The spot ends with the senator urging views to call the NRA and tell them to support his fight.
Manchin's campaign spent a little more than $100,000 on the spot–slightly more than what the NRA paid on their ad–and it will run for at least a week in West Virginia, according to a campaign aide.
A conservative Democrat, Manchin made news in December when he said the Newtown massacre changed his views on gun control. He worked alongside Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania to create a bipartisan proposal that would expand background checks for private sales at gun shows and online. The measure, however, fell short in April of the 60 votes needed to proceed in the Senate.
The senator blasted the NRA and anti-gun control groups Thursday morning, saying they're simply using an argument that the government can't be trusted.
"Well I'm sorry, if you don't trust, then get involved and let's make it better," he said on MSNBC. "They just don't want to get involved. They want this paranoia going on, and I'm not going to stand back and let them."
Manchin does not face re-election until 2018, giving him more political leeway than others in the Senate to play a big role on controversial issues.
Nonetheless, Manchin seems to be fully aware that the the NRA is a powerful force in politics.
"If we can save one child, one family member from going through the heartache of what our Newtown family members went through, just one, then this is more than worth it," he said, referring to the political risk at stake in going up against the organization. "If that's the sacrifice I have to pay as a politician–not to get re-elected because of that– that's the smallest price I can pay. I'd do it every day."
Hitting back at Manchin's comments, the NRA suggested Manchin has two different sides.
"He may speak like an NRA member and tout NRA values when he's in West Virginia but when he's in Washington D.C., he votes the way Mike Bloomberg tells him to and repeats all of Bloomberg's talking points," Andrew Arulanandam told CNN on Thursday.
Last week, the NRA said it was running its spot in heavy rotation during newscasts in West Virginia. The 30-second ad features footage from a commercial for Manchin's 2010 Senate campaign in which he boasts of his NRA endorsement and fires a round into a copy of the Cap and Trade bill.
He was also endorsed by the NRA political victory fund in his 2012 Senate campaign.
"But now, Manchin is working with President Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg," the narrator says in the new NRA ad. "Concerned? You should be. Tell Sen. Manchin to honor his commitment to the Second Amendment and reject the Obama-Bloomberg gun control agenda."
– CNN's Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.