On guns, Manchin supports raising age limits, red flag laws, expanded background checks

Senator Joe Manchin, who is involved with bipartisan discussions about gun safety policy, today expressed support for several.

Those include raising the age limit for possessing semiautomatic rifles, red flag laws to temporarily remove guns from people considered a threat to themselves or others, and the kind of expanded background checks that he has previously backed.

Manchin was less clear about his position on a semiautomatic weapons ban as he spoke on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

The senator’s comments followed a national address on gun safety by President Joe Biden, who asked senators to strongly consider a range of policies following a spree of gun violence across the nation, including at an elementary school in Texas.

“Yes, we’re looking at everything,” Manchin said on statewide radio. “Two things we know that could have stopped it for sure, is raising the age — a person at 18 years of age couldn’t have bought that. The second is a red flag law that we know is working in states such as Florida.

Manchin again described the bill he sponsored along with Republican Senator Pat Toomey following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary that would have instituted criminal and mental background checks for firearms purchased at gun shows and online. That bill was halted by the Senate’s filibuster rules.

“We continue to try to work on it and refine it. It doesn’t infringe on any private Firearm transfers by family members. We protect the culture. So these types of things makes all the sense in the world. Why we’re to the point that we’re just frozen, can’t do anything, makes no sense,” he said.

“We cannot allow this open season on our children. I will consider everything responsible and reasonable that will help protect children.”

Manchin said he would consider a ban on semiautomatic weapons, but he said that matter needs more examination. Manchin spoke about AR-15s.

“It’s one that you have to consider. Is there a pause, should we be looking at this, have experts come, put a pause on this? There’s so many things going on. And I know it’s hard to say you should ban it. There’s so many of those guns on the market today, even if you stop the sale of them what do you do with everything that’s already flooded the market. So I think it’s going to take a holistic approach to this one.

“It’s more than I would know right now, but I’m open to looking at anything that would protect our children. And these seem to be the weapons of choice for these mass shootings.”

Asked for clarity on his position, Manchin agreed it’s fair to say he’s open to considering greater restrictions on semiautomatic rifles.

“I don’t know about a ban, but I’m open to a discussion on why we are needing so many of these types of weapons in civilians’ hands — for the purpose of what? I want to know this.”

National debate over gun safety was renewed after a spree of mass shootings, most recently the killings of nineteen elementary school students and two teachers in Texas.

The gunman in Uvalde, Texas, bought a semi-automatic rifle from a local sporting goods store the day after turning 18, authorities said. He returned days later to buy 375 rounds of ammunition and then an AR-style rifle.

The mass shooting in Texas was just a little more than a week following another where 10 people were killed in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. The shooter there, also 18, used a Bushmaster XM-15, purchased from a gun store. A background check apparently came up clean even though the shooter had been ordered to take a psychiatric evaluation almost a year ago.

Across the nation, discussions have included additional support for mental health services, support to ensure entrances to schools are limited, red flag laws allowing temporary removal of weapons from people representing a danger to themselves or others, raising the legal age for gun purchases, banning high-capacity magazines or expanded background checks.

President Joe Biden

President Biden pleaded with Congress to act on a range of legislation following a string of mass shootings. One of his proposals was to resume a national ban on semiautomatic rifles, although he acknowledged the unlikelihood of political consensus for such broad restrictions.

“We need to ban ‘assault weapons’ and high-capacity magazines. And if we can’t ban assault weapons then we should raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21. Strengthen background checks. Enact safe storage laws and red flag laws. Repeal the immunity that protects gun manufacturers from liability. Address the mental health crisis deepening the trauma and gun violence and as a consequence of that violence.

“These are rational, common sense measures,” said Biden, a Democrat, in a nationally-televised address.

His words were addressed not only to the American public, but also to Congress, where members of an evenly-divided U.S. Senate have been discussing what gun safety measures might have enough support for passage. Any policy would need 60 votes to pass the Senate’s filibuster rules.

“This time, we have to take the time to do something. And this time, it’s time for the Senate to do something,” Biden said. But, as we know, in order to get anything done in the Senate, we need a minimum of 10 Republican senators. I support the bipartisan efforts that include a small group of Democrats and Republican senators trying to find a way.

“But my God. The fact that the majority of the Senate Republicans don’t want any of these proposals even to be debated or come up for a vote, I find unconscionable. We can’t fail the American people again.”

Manchin said he is confident that his fellow senators can reach some agreement.

“I’m more confident than I’ve ever been for this reason: There’s more people engaged than they’ve ever been before,” he said.

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