As the first little bodies were laid to rest today, the nation is coming to grips with how much the Newtown, Connecticut massacre has changed our hearts and minds. The shooting has rained down sorrow and it has made us scared. But the tragedy also has inspired a marked change in how we, as a nation, approach gun control. President Obama, news reporters and everyday people have spent the last four days speaking like they’ve reached an epiphany on the need to make our schools, our malls, and our movie theaters safer.
Today on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) heralded the most notable shift yet. The former Governor of West Virginia, Manchin is a proud lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, holds an “A” rating for fierce opposition to gun control, and received an NRA endorsement for his Senate bid.
However, Manchin is paving a new way for pro-gun advocates on Capitol Hill by saying the Sandy Hook slaughter has “changed the dialogue” and made it clear that we need “common sense” discussion – and action – on gun control.
During the show, Manchin said “it’s time to move beyond rhetoric” that has stymied common sense gun control measures for so long. He also:
- Gave Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) proposed federal assault weapons ban his stamp of approval
- Affirmed that his fellow hunters and sportsmen don’t need semi-automatic weapons or 30-round clips
- Said “everything should be on the table” when discussing possible gun control measures
- Criticized “anyone saying they don’t want to talk” about gun control as being “wrong.”
Here’s the clip (article continues after video):
Manchin also indicated he thinks the NRA will be receptive to dialoguing with government and the community about reforming gun laws. When asked why the NRA would reverse its long-standing position that semi-automatic assault rifles are protected by the Second Amendment, Manchin said:
I think seeing the massacre of so many innocent children, it’s changed America…Never before have we seen our babies slaughtered…this type of carnage…Anybody who’s a proud gun owner, a proud member of the NRA, they’re also proud parents, they’re proud grandparents. [Newtown] has changed where we go from here.
Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough, who also reversed his pro-gun stance after the Newtown shooting, predicted that more gun-owning parents and grandparents will step forward like Manchin to call for stricter gun control.
The political currents are undoubtedly shifting. More and more political leaders will back common sense progress on gun control, either due to conscience or political pressure. There won’t be many in Congress who will want to be accused of disgracing the memory of those slain in Newtown.
Passage of the assault weapons ban may actually happen easily because of the climate the Sandy Hook tragedy created.
I’ll leave you with a video that underlines how much the deaths at Sandy Hook have changed our views. In 2010, Manchin was such a quintessential pro-gun politician that he actually fired a rifle in his campaign commercial, sending a bullet through a symbolic representation of the Cap and Trade bill.
Here’s more of my recent gun control coverage: