WASHINGTON, D.C. —
Senators representing West Virginia and Virginia are now calling for gun legislation and a look at how the nation deals with the mentally ill in light of the recent school shooting that took the lives of 20 children.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., spoke Monday morning, the same day of the first funerals for the Sandy Hook Elementary School students killed Friday. Investigators say Adam Lanza shot his way into the school and opened fire on a first grade class, stopping only when he heard the police. Lanza, described as troubled by family members, then shot himself. He had killed his mother before heading to the school. Investigators are still searching for the reason behind the rampage.
The massacre renewed calls from some Democrats on Sunday for a ban on military-style assault weapons and a look at how the nation deals with individuals suffering from serious mental illness.
“This is bigger than just about guns,” Manchin said. “It’s about how we treat people with mental illness, how we intervene, how we get them the care they need, how we protect our schools. It’s just so sad.”
Manchin, who had been hunting with his family over the weekend, said gun rights advocates have been concerned about the erosion of the Second Amendment right to bear and keep arms, “taking guns away and people not allowed to have them. That’s not what this should be about. Millions and millions of people are proud gun owners and they do it responsibly and by the law.”
But the self-described “proud outdoorsman and hunter” said, “I don’t know anyone in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle, I don’t know anybody who needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting.”
“Never before have we seen our babies slaughtered. It’s never happened in America that I can recall, seeing this carnage,” Manchin said. “Anybody that’s a proud gun owner, a proud member of the NRA, they’re also proud parents, they’re proud grandparents. They understand this has changed where we go from here.”
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., among the few Senate Democrats to hold favor with the National Rifle Association, said Monday that the Connecticut elementary school massacre has reversed his stand on assault weapons.
Warner endorsed President Barack Obama’s support for restricting rapid-fire rifles like those a gunman used in the massacre of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“The status quo is not acceptable anymore,” the centrist former Virginia governor said in interviews Monday at the state capitol, recalling the horror his three daughters expressed Friday at the second-worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Its death toll is surpassed only by 2007 slayings of 32 people at Virginia Tech.
“There needs to be appropriate restrictions on these tools of mass-killing,” Warner said, calling for tighter screening of gun buyers and stricter access to powerful, combat-style firearms capable of dispensing numerous shots in a short time.
He said he had not considered details of such legislation, but said he hopes to find moderate Republicans to help him advance pragmatic reforms that don’t punish those who own firearms for hunting and self-defense.
“I hope this won’t just be a flash point and then it will just recede into the quagmire in Washington,” he said.
Asked if he was concerned about clashing with the NRA as he looks toward a re-election bid in 2014, Warner said, “I hope the NRA will be a part of this conversation.”
There was no comment from officials at the organization’s Fairfax, Va., headquarters.