The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sandy Hook

December 22, 2012

Sen. Manchin: Obama and NRA both fall short


So, I propose an alternate path: a national commission on mass violence. Such a commission could lead the national conversation that is desperately needed in the wake of Newtown. It could hold public hearings, after which it would issue a report and recommendations based on facts, not emotions or preconceived notions of what it takes to end mass violence in America.

When the president announced his task force this past week, he said it would not be one more Washington commission, "studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside." That is certainly not what I envision for this group. The worst possible outcome would be another Simpson-Bowles commission, whose excellent blueprint has languished despite bipartisan support. Instead, this panel would have teeth — more like the 9/11 Commission.

I am not the first to suggest this approach. My friends Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Sen. John McCain of Arizona have advocated a similar effort for years. And I believe that such a commission could go well beyond the work of the president's task force and help provide a fuller understanding of the root causes of senseless acts of violence.

That's because finding a comprehensive solution will take effort — the effort to talk with experts from a variety of fields, including mental health and entertainment; the effort to carefully craft recommendations that seek to avert unintended consequences; and, most important, the effort to build a consensus to move forward on a matter that has divided our country for far too long. Putting forth this effort doesn't mean it would have to take forever — but it certainly means it would take more than a few weeks.

We cannot have this conversation without gun owners and groups like the NRA. Sportsmen, hunters and gun owners must have a seat at the table. They've been vilified for so much of the mass violence in America, and that's just wrong. They're hurting about Newtown as much as the rest of us.

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