Has Manchin Mis-fired on Gun Issue?

By: Roger Sheppard
By: Roger Sheppard

Why would a new Senator risk his career on this topic?

Joe Manchin is either a very smart politician or a not-very-smart one. He has drawn the ire of many long-time supporters in West Virginia, because of his involvement in discussions about ways to limit access to guns by criminals and other people, deemed unworthy of owning such weapons, through more thorough background checks. Let me see if I have this right: A U.S. Senator must be elected by a majority of voters, to keep his job. Voters are traditionally older people. Older people usually have long-held beliefs. West Virginia is one of the oldest-skewing states in the U.S. Given that West Virginia is a largely rural state, many of those older voters are likely to be gun-owners and hunters. Why would Manchin put his political neck on the line for an issue likely to upset a goodly number of his constituents and call out the powerful National Rifle Association for a fight? I can think of several possible reasons. First, U.S. Senators are elected to six-year terms. The Founding Fathers did that for a reason. They hoped that by not having to run every two years as their counterparts in the U.S. House must do, Senators would not be as subject to the shifting concerns of the public. They could be more deliberative and take a longer view of larger issues. Manchin may feel that’s what he is doing. Second, it’s early in Manchin’s first term of office in the U.S. Senate. Perhaps he’s hoping that by attacking this issue early on, he can put it behind him before his next campaign, which would be in the year 2018. He may feel there’s plenty of time to re-ingratiate himself to enough voters in West Virginia, that they might overlook his transgression on guns. Thirdly, Manchin was 65 years old when he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012. The average age of a current U.S. Senator is about 62. When 2018 rolls around, he will be 71. He may or may not have any interest in running again at that time. West Virginia’s senior Senator, Jay Rockefeller, just tuned 76 and is not running for re-election next year. Manchin obviously thinks it is possible to take steps to limit access to weapons by people most likely to do mayhem with them, while not trouncing on Second Amendment rights. Is he right or is he wrong? Most people I hear from say he couldn’t be more wrong, and they will NOT forget this when 2018 gets here. That’s this week’s editorial.

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