The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sandy Hook

December 22, 2012

Sen. Manchin: Obama and NRA both fall short

In the days after the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Conn., I made it clear that I believe it is time for us to move from rhetoric to action to prevent future acts of senseless mass violence.

Since then, much has been made of those comments — some of it accurately reflecting what I said, some not. Because I am an A-rated, lifelong member of the National Rifle Association and a proud defender of the Second Amendment, some people viewed my comments as a tipping point in the debate about guns in America.

The true tipping point, of course, is what happened in that elementary school on Dec. 14 — the unimaginable slaughter of 20 children and the teachers and staff members who were defending them. When children die tragically, it rips at our very hearts. Even in our grief, we demand a reckoning.

That reckoning is now upon us, and we owe it to those children and their families to take it seriously. As a nation, we must reconsider the treatment of the mentally ill. We must challenge a popular culture that accepts stomach-churning violence in our movies and video games. We must look at the use of high-capacity ammunition magazines and military-style assault weapons.

Committed gun owners like me can and must listen to reasonable ideas about preventing mass violence. But whatever steps we take must be comprehensive — and must bring the entertainment industry and mental health community to the table. We cannot snap our fingers, push one-track legislation that focuses exclusively on guns and pat ourselves on the back. Such an approach certainly won't fare well in Congress. More important, it won't fully address the problem.

I truly appreciate President Obama's intentions to "push without delay" a set of recommendations to address the kind of madness we witnessed in Newtown. However, an administration-led approach, without significant input from the entertainment, gun and mental health communities, will not meet the crucial test of credibility. It excludes too many of the voices that must be heard if we're going to get this right after so many decades of bitter stalemate.

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