Manchin takes aim at guns

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who called for political dialogue in the wake of the shooting that killed 20 students at a Connecticut elementary school, said he wants to know more about fellow lawmakers’ gun proposals.

A Democrat and self-described lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, Manchin said he would be willing to discuss a wide variety of steps – including gun control measures – in response to the shooting.

“I never thought in my life that I would see this type of attack on our children,” he said Monday during a conference call with the media. “Everything should be on the table. We should be talking about everything as we approach this.”

Manchin, who declined to be specific about what policies he would support, said he believed the gun rights lobby should be a part of the conversation.

“We should bring the NRA in on these discussions,” he said. “They need to be at the table.”

in the  called for an open political dialogue following the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which, along with the shooter and his mother.

Manchin, who noted he would always defend Second Amendment rights, said he was skeptical about legalizing possession of assault rifles — a term that has not been clearly defined — and high-capacity magazines.

“The assault rifles, I guess, that were designed for the military with multiple-round clips – when I hunt I never have more than three rounds in my gun,” he said. “I don’t know people who go hunting with assault rifles, with 10 or 20 or 30 rounds in their gun.”

He said he was “anxious to see” a proposed assault rifle ban drawn up by California Democrat Sen. Diane Feinstein and that he would consider a bill discussed by New York Sen. Charles Schumer that would limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds.

Manchin said many on Capitol Hill are “afraid to even talk about” gun control measures out of fear for political repercussions.

“I’m not saying there are going to be mammoth changes,” he said.

Manchin also said public mental health policy should be examined, though he did not have any specific proposals and warned that federal budget issues could conceivably hamper reform.

“We’ve cut back in so many different ways,” he said. “If you can’t pay for it you can’t do it. So if we’re talking about help to the mentally ill, it has to be paid for, and you can’t do it unless you get finances in order.”

Manchin said it might also be time to examine America’s feelings about depictions of violence in media and entertainment.

“Not only do we promote violence, but we glorify it sometimes,” he said, pointing to violent video games and movies. “We’ve got to re-evaluate who we are as a society. (But) we’ve got to be very careful. We have a First Amendment too.”

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