The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

December 19, 2012

Republicans bash Manchin over school shooting

Sen. Joe Manchin’s plea for a no-holds-barred talk on America’s culture of violence in the wake of last week’s tragedy at a Connecticut grade school sparked partisan heat Tuesday from a Republican critic in West Virginia.

In a brief statement, the party’s chairman, Conrad Lucas, accused the Democratic lawmaker of exploiting last week’s carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School for political gain.

And, in a related development, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, also D-W.Va., called for a renewal of the expired ban on so-called assault weapons, as many political leaders began to focus on the high-capacity magazines employed by the gunman in killing 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn.

Manchin insisted in a Monday news conference that he never endorsed reinstatement of the gun ban but was merely reaching out to the National Rifle Association, of which he is a card-carrying member in good standing, for inclusion in a dialogue on violence.

So far, the NRA, which has consistently given Manchin an “A” rating in elections, hasn’t commented on the massacre.

By mid-afternoon, however, after getting a call from President Obama, Manchin voiced confidence the NRA would take part in a discussion “because I know that their hearts are aching for the families in Newtown, just like all Americans.”

“To have a productive dialogue, we also need to address a number of critical issues, including our mental health system, safety in our schools and a media and entertainment culture that glorifies unspeakable violence,” the senator said.

Lucas charged that Manchin used his media appearances to advance “a disingenuous political career,” and suggested it was ill-timed and meant to help in pursuit of the presidency.

“This event should not be publicized,” the Huntington man said.

“Our nation is in mourning for the tragic and senseless loss of these young souls. Joe Manchin’s classless timing reveals both how insensitive and opportunistic he is. How dare Sen. Manchin use a horrible situation to gain favor with liberal Washington insiders.”

Apprised of the press release, Manchin issued a terse statement through his capital office.

“When 20 children have been massacred in their classroom, this country should be able to have an adult conversation about how to keep our children safe,” Manchin told The Register-Herald.

“I will not dignify this ugly trash with a response.”

Lucas said the GOP wouldn’t raise any platform stances while funerals of the victims were either in progress or being planned.

“We strongly urge Sen. Manchin to retract his comments, consider the needs and emotions of the families involved and leave politics for another time,” he said.

Lucas agreed a national talk on measures to avert future tragedies is in order, but not now.

“A national discussion on preventing such catastrophes should and will take place later,” he said.

“Before Sen. Manchin plans any trips to Iowa, he should reflect on how he has humiliated himself and our state.”

In the telephone news conference, a reporter asked Manchin about the timing for a blue-ribbon panel to discuss violence, and he responded by saying as governor he wasted no time seeking corrective safety measures after the Sago and Aracoma coal mine tragedies.

Manchin said he wants to explore all facets of the violence issues, including the impact of a constant flood of violent movies and video games that saturate the minds of youths.


Rockefeller voted for the 10-year ban on assault weapons in 1994 and said he wants the opportunity to do it again.

“West Virginia has a proud hunting tradition and respect for the 2nd Amendment,” the state’s senior senator said.

“But most hunters I talk with know that prohibiting the use of military-grade weapons or clips that can fire dozens of rounds in a matter of seconds will not impact those traditions, nor do they have a place on our streets. We need to pass a bill that will again prohibit such weapons.”

Like Manchin, he called for an examination of the violence that floods the minds of children on a daily basis via Hollywood films and graphic video games.

“By the time children reach 18 years old, they have (viewed) tens of thousands of violent images — on televisions, the Internet or video games,” Rockefeller said, suggesting that life often imitates art.

“As parents, research confirms what we already know — these violent images have a negative impact on our children’s well-being. While we don’t know if such images impacted the killer in Newtown, the issue of violent content is serious and must be addressed.”

Rockefeller lamented the downsizing or outright elimination of inpatient and community services for children and adults suffering serious mental disorders, adding mental health providers are in short supply across the nation.

“This is yet another area where action is necessary,” the senator added.

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