Manchin Hoping for Another Shot at Expanded Gun Checks

CHARLESTON – He doesn’t know when the next vote may come, but U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said in an interview this week that he isn’t giving up on his quest to broaden gun buyer background checks.

The Democrat and lifelong gun owner, who famously fired a rifle in a 2010 campaign TV ad, said he continues to seek needed supporters for expanding background checks to all transactions at gun shows and online. The proposal he co-sponsored with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., needed at least 60 votes to advance in April but fell short, 54-46.

“I’m hoping there are Republicans who will change their minds,” Manchin told The Associated Press.

Background checks are meant to prevent criminals and the seriously mentally ill from purchasing firearms, but are mandated only for sales handled by licensed gun dealers. Among its provisions, the Manchin-Toomey proposal would exempt non-commercial transactions such as sales between friends and relatives.

“If you’re a law-abiding gun owner, you want to know who’s behind the gun at a gun show. You want to know who wants to buy your gun online,” Manchin said. He added, “If we could save just one life from a criminal, a known criminal, or from someone who is mentally deranged.”

Manchin’s resolve is reflected in a TV ad that’s aired over the past week. It responds to one from the National Rifle Association targeting him that ran earlier this month. With both appearing on West Virginia stations, each side estimated spending $100,000.

Again sporting a rifle in his ad, Manchin touts his lifetime NRA membership and defends his stance as pro-Second Amendment. He urges viewers to call the NRA in support of expanded background checks. Also invoking Manchin’s 2010 campaign spot, the NRA’s ad argues that the former governor has since changed his position on guns and calls for constituents to phone his office.

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said his group continues to object to broadening a system it believes suffers from “gaping holes.” Arulanandam said 23 states submit little or no information to the existing system.

“The promise of an instant check to the American people has not been fulfilled. It’s incomplete as we speak,” he said Wednesday. He added, “make sure all the necessary information is contained within the system first… What has to be done first is fixing the system.”

The NRA had repeatedly endorsed Manchin and he previously earned top grades in its scoring system throughout his political career. Willing to amend his stalled proposal to address gun lobby concerns, Manchin said he kept the NRA in the loop as he and Toomey developed their measure and felt blindsided by its opposition.