Joe Manchin shocked nearly no one in this declaration yesterday on MSNBC, except for maybe the few who watch the channel live. Manchin is the epitome of the conflict that red-state Senate Democrats will have to manage when it comes to gun control legislation. Manchin won his seat in part by attacking cap-and-trade and defending gun rights in the same ad, famously using a rifle to put a round through a copy of the cap-and-trade bill. No one expected Manchin to vote for Dianne Feinstein’s bill in the first place:
Speaking on MSNBC, Manchin, who has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association and in December called for federal action to reduce gun violence, said he thinks there’s a better way to reduce mass shootings without introducing new restrictions for gun owners.
“I do not support an assault weapon ban because the definition of assault weapon is still hard to come by,” Manchin said. “So I am not going to comment on people’s legislation. I do not support that approach right now.”
Instead, the West Virginia Democrats is hoping to craft something that actually has a chance of passage:
Manchin is part of a quartet of legislators working to tighten background checks required to purchase a gun. The other members of the group are Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).
Another member of the Senate Democrat caucus not from a red state sounded like a “no” on Sunday, The Hill notes:
On Sunday Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said he was “skeptical” of a new assault weapons ban.
“You can take exactly the same mechanics of a gun and change the stock from a wooden stock to a folding stock and put something on the barrel, and suddenly it meets the definition of an assault weapon,” King said. “It doesn’t shoot faster, further, anything else.”
You noticed? The term “assault weapon” is meaningless for that reason. All of the rifles on the list have one thing in common with every other rifle that can be legally sold to and possessed by civilians without a special license — they fire one bullet at a time. The definition of “assault weapon” relies strictly on aesthetics, and is a nonsense term. And murder victims by all rifles constitute such a small number of overall murder victims (~3%) that the proposal is unserious almost by definition.
Update: I apologize; the bill that Manchin shot was cap-and-trade, not ObamaCare. Thanks to Resist We Much in the comments for the correction. I’ve fixed it above.