Manchin backpedals on gun control after constitutents confront him

Remember the summer of 2009?  Members of Congress came home to hold town-hall meetings as usual in August, part of their annual listening-tour strategy to keep incumbents in favor back in home states and districts.  When voters started showing up in droves to berate these Senators and Representatives over ObamaCare, however, the town-hall meetings started getting canceled, and those that did continue made for great moments on YouTube — especially the declaration from former US Representative Baron Hill (D-IN), who declared that no one could tape the meeting because he didn’t want it to end up on YouTube [update: video fixed]:

This is my town hall meeting, and I set the rules. I’ve had these rules — [booing] — Uh, let me repeat that one more time. This is my town-hall meeting for you. And you’re not going to tell me how to run my Congressional office. Now, the reason why I don’t allow filming is because usually the films that are done end up on YouTube in a compromising position.

The town-hall scolding has come back in style, at least in West Virginia, according to the New York Times.  Senator Joe Manchin visited the home folks last week in a forum that should have been more friendly — a meeting of “businessmen and community leaders” in Beckley.  Nevertheless, the group gave Manchin an earful over his professed support for Barack Obama’s gun-control legislation:

Despite his best attempts to reassure them — “I see no movement, no talk, no bills, no nothing” — they remained skeptical. “We give up our rights one piece at a time,” a banker named Charlie Houck told the senator. …

And on the afternoon the 15 residents met with Mr. Manchin in the conference room of a local arts center, they told him that going after guns and ammunition capacity would be much like banning box cutters after the Sept. 11 attacks, or limiting whiskey and six-pack sales to cure alcoholism.

“It takes about a second and a half to change a clip,” said Frank Jezioro, a former special agent with the Office of Naval Intelligence and now director of the state Division of Natural Resources.

Mr. Jezioro likened gunmen in mass shootings to suicide bombers: they will always find a way. “A guy can walk through this door right here with your Beretta five-shot automatic, and cut the barrel off at 16 inches, and put five double-ought buckshots in there and kill everybody in here in a matter of seconds,” he said. “And you don’t have to aim it.”

And it had its intended impact:

As a hunter with an A rating from the National Rifle Association, Mr. Manchin gave advocates for new weapons laws reason for optimism after he said last month that gun firepower and magazine capacity might need to be limited.

But now, Mr. Manchin, who affirmed his support for gun rights by running a campaign commercial in 2010 showing him firing a rifle into an environmental bill, says he is not so sure. One of his local offices has been picketed, and even some of his most thoughtful supporters are cautioning him that stronger background checks are about all the gun control they can stomach.

And Manchin doesn’t have to run for re-election next year, like a number of Democrats in the Senate do.  The NYT mentions Jean Shaheen (D-NH), whose state produces Rugers and Sig Sauers.  There’s also Kay Hagan of North Carolina, who has to be rather cognizant of the Democratic collapse in her state last November.  Survey USA polled voters in North Carolina on the gun-control issue, and found that 54% believe it’s more important to protect the right to own weapons than to restrict access to them.  While there is some support for limiting magazine capacities, almost two-thirds (63%) want better enforcement of existing legislation rather than new laws.  In a multi-answer question, a large plurality said that better security (41%) would better address school shootings, while only 18% chose making access to guns more difficult.  Almost the same percentage (16%) chose better access to mental-health resources.

The Obama gun-control package will go nowhere, especially if these red-state Democrats go home and start talking to constituents.