Joe Manchin Still Opposed to House's Gun Control Bills Despite Atlanta, Boulder Shootings

Citing a "gun culture" and his own gun ownership, Senator Joe Manchin reaffirmed on Tuesday that he doesn't support two restrictions on gun purchases that President Joe Biden says could prevent more deadly mass shootings.

"Not at all," Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, told reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. "I come from a gun culture, and I'm a law-abiding gun owner who would do the right thing. You have to assume we will do the right thing. Give me a chance to."

Manchin's position is crucial in the Senate, where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority. Any legislation would need 60 votes to pass, unless Democrats upend the filibuster, which they've resisted doing so far. Getting Manchin on board is seen as one way to probably draw in additional GOP votes. He indicated that he might be open to some revisions to the House bills to make them more palatable when they come up for Senate debate.

"We're going to try to do the responsible, reasonable thing," Manchin said. In the past, the senator has proposed his own version of lighter restrictions on gun purchases, including background checks at gun shows and for online sales.

After the shooting in a Boulder, Colorado, grocery store Monday evening that left 10 people dead—just days after three connected shootings at spas in the Atlanta area—Biden on Tuesday called on lawmakers to finalize two pieces of gun legislation that the House passed earlier this year.

"This isn't a partisan issue—it's an American issue," Biden said. "We have to act."

One of the bills would require background checks for sales between private parties. The other aims to close what's known as the "Charleston loophole," where gun sellers can let a purchaser buy a gun even if a background check can't be completed in the required three days.

"I don't need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common sense steps to save lives in the future and urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act," Biden said. "The Senate should immediately pass the two House-passed bills that close loopholes in the background check system."

As details of the latest shooting were still emerging, senators spent Tuesday morning debating whether there's a path forward on new gun laws.

During that hearing, Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, lashed out at Democratic leaders.

"Every time there's a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders," Cruz said. "What happens in this committee after every mass shooting is Democrats propose taking away guns from law-abiding citizens because that's their political objective."

Along with Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican and the ranking GOP member on the Judiciary Committee, Cruz has sponsored legislation that would make it illegal for someone to purchase a gun for a person who cannot legally obtain one. The measure would also enhance some background checks.

"Let's target the bad guys, the felons, the fugitives, those with mental disease," Cruz said. "Let's not scapegoat innocent, law-abiding citizens, and let's not target their Constitution."

Joe Manchin
Senator Joe Manchin at the U.S. Capitol on February 24. LEIGH VOGEL / POOL / AFP/Getty Images