CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Following mass shootings last weekend in Texas and Ohio, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is among the lawmakers using their recess period discussing the most appropriate legislative response.
“When you look at the amount of mass shootings that have happened in the last 10, 15 years in the superpower of the world and the greatest society the world has ever known … to allow this to continue, it’s just irresponsible on all of our parts,” Manchin told reporters on Wednesday.
During a 15-minute conference call, the senator answered questions regarding policy proposals — including his measure with Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey — and if lawmakers will have the energy to address mass shootings when they return to Washington, D.C. on Sept. 9.
“We’re working, even though we’re not in D.C. working on a day-to-day basis on this thing,” he said. “Hopefully, we can present something to the White House and the president for their evaluation and see if they give the green light and go ahead, then we’ll work in a bipartisan group.”
The current talks regarding possible legislation come in light of two mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio last weekend; 31 people have died in connection with the shootings.
President Donald Trump contacted Manchin and Toomey on Monday about their proposal, which would extend background checks to transactions at gun shows and online. The senators first introduced the measure following the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, in which 26 students and staff died.
Manchin called the bill the “most common sense piece of legislation then,” despite the Senate failing to pass the measure in 2013. Manchin said its opponents were concerned the Obama administration would use executive action to further gun control policies, which he argued would not have happened.
“They don’t assume that (Trump) is going to go further, taking more of their guns and rights away from them,” he said of the current administration. “If we have something reasonable he signs off on, that’s the difference today.”
Manchin also spoke to Trump on Tuesday, saying the president seems interested in “getting something done that will make a difference.”
Manchin added Toomey has talked to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about the measure.
“I haven’t heard how those talks are going,” Manchin said.
McConnell on Monday directed Republican leaders in the Senate to have bipartisan discussions on possible legislation.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said earlier this week he will introduce legislation to encourage states to adopt “red flag” laws, which would allow a court to temporarily restrict someone’s ability to possess or purchase guns. A family member can ask the court to issue such restrictions.
Under the proposal, states would be encouraged to adopt laws through a federal grant program.
Graham also said he and Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal have an agreement on the legislation. Manchin said he spoke to Graham about the proposal, noting Trump’s concerns about how age would be considered.
“We have teachers coming to me every day saying, ‘I can tell you a child that’s going to be a problem, and if you don’t intervene before they go through puberty and really get to adulthood, then you’ve got serious problems,'” Manchin said.
“We’re looking at how we are able to identify for the good of the person and the safety of the public … how we’re able to identify and try to get them help before they basically do something in a horrible and disastrous way.”
Manchin said lawmakers will approach the White House on the best legislative path; Congress could consider an omnibus measure consisting of multiple proposals or vote on bills individually.
“This culture is not going to change unless there is leadership at the top,” he said. “At this point in time, the leadership comes from Donald Trump.”
Trump and First Lady Melania Trump spent Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, in which they spoke to first responders, hospital staff and people wounded in the shootings. The president was met with protests in both cities.
“I just got the impression that urgency and doing something sooner than later is where (Trump) prefers to be in talking to him,” Manchin noted.
The House of Representatives in February passed House Resolution 8 — the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 — which would create new background check requirements for firearm transfers involving unlicensed people; private parties could not transfer a gun unless a background check is conducted first.
None of West Virginia’s House members voted for the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have asked McConnell to put the bill before the Senate.
Manchin said he has not looked at House Resolution 8 in full, but doubted the Senate would pass the resolution given the 2013 vote on his background check proposal.
“I’m supporting something I think can pass. That’s what I will be supporting. I think ours is the most reasonable, and it would have passed in 2013 if we had more Republicans helping us,” he said. “Now with the president, if he signs on to whatever he signs onto, I think we have a chance in the Senate. Without him signing on, we don’t.”