The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 18, 2013

Gun Bill


The Register-Herald

— It was a bold attempt, but it failed.

Still, the issue must be faced.

Maybe this was the start.

Earlier this month, U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., introduced the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, a bill aimed to prevent convicted criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from purchasing guns, while not infringing on law-abiding gun owners’ Second Amendment rights.

Manchin acknowledged the fact that recent tragedies had a hand in bringing the matter to the forefront of discussion in America.

“While the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, Conn., has elevated the gun safety conversation, we cannot sacrifice our Constitutional rights out of fear,” he said. “It is our obligation to keep our children safe and to protect our Second Amendment rights — and I truly believe we can and must do both.”

Despite the senator’s urging that the bill was not an infringement on their rights, staunch supporters of the Second Amendment had a hard time believing claims that “the bill will not, in any way, shape, or form infringe upon anyone’s Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms; the bill will not take away anyone’s guns; The bill will not ban any type of firearm; the bill will not ban or restrict the use of any kind of bullet or any size clip or magazine and the bill will not create a national registry; in fact, it explicitly prohibits it,” as promised.

In fact, Manchin delivered remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday morning in a final attempt to urge all Americans (including senators who were preparing to vote in a few hours) “to read and understand the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill while protecting and expanding Americans’ Second Amendment rights.”

The bill was a common sense approach that appeared to seek a significant impact on the issues of violent crimes in America that have ramped up in recent years.

But it was an uphill battle.

Even if it passed in the Senate, by all accounts, it faced a tough go of it in the House.

Manchin stuck his neck out there in a couple of ways — reaching across the aisle in a bipartisan fashion to help draft the bill, for one.

But perhaps most of all, he took on an issue that ignites passion for some of his strongest supporters, gun owners, and the very citizens that put him in office, West Virginians. They may be led to believe that he abandoned the very pro-gun stance that he has flexed proudly in prior elections.

Someone had to step forward, so it must be noted that Manchin and Toomey weren’t afraid to stand up and be the faces of the controversial bill.

Though unsuccessful, our hope is that meaningful dialogue will continue with this important issue and many others.

Our elected political leaders need to be just that, leaders, and stand up and vote like leaders for what is best for America and not disgrace their profession by cowardly voting to protect their re-election.

The gridlock on Capitol Hill has to end.

Perhaps, sparked by this somewhat polarizing bill, lawmakers really can learn again how to work together.