Meeting with Newtown families this afternoon, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told them, “I’m a parent and a grandfather, and I had to do something.” He spoke slowly, pausing between words as he choked back tears. “I had to do something.”
Mark Barden, the father of 7-year-old Daniel, handed the senator a tissue and placed his hand on his shoulder.
“Let’s all share,” the senator said, putting the box of tissues on the coffee table between them to the many takers among the families.
Earlier today the West Virginia Democrat had joined Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania in a bipartisan compromise seeking to expand background checks for the sale of guns - both at gun shows and online.
Speaking to the families, Manchin said, “I can assure you we’re protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners, the same as we’re trying to prevent lawbreakers and people who aren’t mentally capable of having a gun, it does both.” He added that he is not worried about how this will affect his NRA “A” rating. “I would ask my friends at the NRA – take our bill, put it online and let NRA members like myself vote on it. Let them vote and see where they would be. ”
The families, who have been making the rounds on Capitol Hill this week, appeared responsive to the proposal.
“We would just like to say from the bottom of our hearts, thank you so much for your courage. It just means so much to us,” Mark Barden said.
“We know there is not a panacea, we know that,” David Wheeler, father to 6-year-old Ben said. “The courage that you and Senator Toomey have shown is encouraging, and for that we are so very grateful.”
The senator was asked how the proposal with Toomey could prevent another school shooting like the one in Newtown. The senator spoke at length about the proposed Commission on Mass Violence, which is part of the agreement, which he hopes would bring experts together to come up with new ways to protect children in schools.
“We’re going to hatch something that is going to be because of this horrible tragedy and in the pain, the unimaginable pain, that something is going to happen very good from the standpoint of hopefully preventing it,” Manchin said.
Earlier in the day the families continued their second day lobbying legislators on Capitol Hill with a separate meeting with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-PA. They have also met with Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH.; Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC.; Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.; Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas; Sen. Coburn, R-Okla.; and Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C. Tomorrow the families will meet with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., among others.