Pro-gun senator concedes it is time to act
A day after President Barack Obama stood before mourners in the Connecticut town of Newtown and said American attitudes towards gun control were no longer tolerable, support for tightening access to high-powered weaponry emerged from some unlikely sources.
US senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia considered one of the staunchest defenders of gun rights on Capitol Hill, said he believed it was time to rein in access to assault rifles such as the one Adam Lanza used to kill 20 first-graders and six teachers.
“This has changed the dialogue,” said Mr Manchin, an avid hunter and lifelong member of the National Rifle Association, which uniformly opposes any attempt to limit legal access to guns and ammunition.
Mr Manchin said “everything should be on the table” as lawmakers decide how to respond to the second-worst school shooting in US history. Mr Manchin’s willingness to tighten restrictions is seen as significant because he represents a state where most residents own guns and he holds what the NRA considers a perfect voting record on gun owners’ rights.
“I don’t know anybody in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle,” Mr Manchin said during an appearance on MSNBC. “I don’t know anybody who needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting. I mean, these are things that need to be talked about.”
Police say Lanza (20) used a military-style rifle, which his mother had purchased legally, to murder her at their home, then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 6- and 7-year-olds and their teachers before killing himself.
The gun and its high-capacity magazines would have been illegal under a rifle ban passed under Bill Clinton but allowed to expire under George W Bush. Manchin was joined by another Democrat, Congressman John Yarmuth from the gun-friendly state of Kentucky, in calling for new gun laws.
“I have been largely silent on the issue of gun violence over the past six years, and I am now as sorry for that as I am for what happened to the families who lost so much in this most recent, but sadly not isolated, tragedy,” he said. Republican politicians, and the NRA, have been noticeably silent on the prospect of more gun control legislation since Friday’s massacre.