West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — who has an “A” rating from the NRA and is a lifetime member of the pro-gun rights group — said Monday that it was time to “move beyond rhetoric” on gun control.Yeah, this is the same Joe Manchin who shot a copy of cap and trade legislation with a rifle during his first senate campaign. And now he's talking about gun control. Now, he's not gotten to the point of saying what he'd actually support. And he also says he wants the NRA to be part of the discussion. But at least rhetorically, even Joe freaking Manchin is now for gun control.
“I just came with my family from deer hunting,” Manchin said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I’ve never had more than three shells in a clip. Sometimes you don’t get more than one shot anyway at a deer. It’s common sense. It’s time to move beyond rhetoric. We need to sit down and have a common sense discussion and move in a reasonable way.”
Manchin isn't alone. His senate colleagues Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer both voiced support for more gun control over the weekend. Feinstein endorsed a specific proposal, banning military-style assault weapons, a position which was backed up by Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal. And today, New Jersey's Frank Lautenberg said he would push for a ban on high capacity gun magazines. But while senators like Manchin, Lautenberg, Blumenthal, Feinstein, and Schumer are talking about gun control, their second-amendment colleagues aren't willing to step forward and join the debate:
Meanwhile, the only elected official to step forward and aggressively defend guns didn't do his side any favors. Appearing on Meet the Press, Republican Congressman Louis Gohmert of Texas argued that if the Sandy Hook Elementary School principal had only had an assault rifle stored in a gun locker, lives would have been saved. Gohmert also claimed more guns is the best way to reduce gun violence, a claim that just isn't true.
On Fox, Charles Krauthammer tried out a marginally safer argument, claiming after President Obama's speech last night that the president was merely being political last night by saying that we need to prevent violence against children. I guess calling the president political for being against gun violence isn't as dumb a thing to say as blaming the Sandy Hook principal for not being armed, but it's not exactly a winning argument either.
And in yet another indication of the changing political landscape, even Joe Scarborough is now saying there needs to be a reassessment of gun control laws—NRA be damned. I'm no fan of Scarborough, but the more pro-gun voices say that there needs to be some new sort of gun control, the harder it will be for the gun lobby to turn this debate into the sort of culture war that they've had success with in the past.
Another factor that will make it hard for the NRA to play the culture war card is that it appears Adam Lanza's mother purchased so many assault weapons to protect herself from an apocalyptic breakdown of civil society after an economic collapse that she feared was coming.
“Last time we visited with her in person we talked about prepping and you know, are you ready for what can happen down the line when the economy collapses,” said the gunman’s aunt, Marsha Lanza.Obviously, that's an irrational fear, and preparing for it by stocking up on military-style weaponry even loonier. Yet apparently this sort of thinking is a growing trend. I'm sure some gun makers and gun sellers like it, because it gives them more business, but these are not the kind of people that the gun lobby wants to have as the public face for their industry.
The reporter asked, “Survivalist kind of thing?”
“Yea,” said Marsha Lanza.
In American, there's broad support the idea that you should be allowed to own a gun for hunting or for self defense. But when it comes to building a mini-arsenel to defend against the collapse of civil society and its chaotic aftermath, that's not something most Americans think is a good idea. And the early signs suggest politicians in Washington understand which side they want to be on.