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Diane Mufson: Manchin a straight shooter; NRA off target

Jul. 17, 2013 @ 12:05 AM

Washington is full of politicians. The word "politician" should not be a pejorative term, but lately it is. To many it represents manipulative, power-hungry folks who will say and do almost anything to get elected or re-elected.

Not all politicians conform to the current negative stereotype. Some actually care about issues and their constituents. A few are even willing to support an issue they see as vital, despite pressure to not do so.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who clearly states his fondness for gun ownership, advocates clear background checks for gun buyers. He's a straight shooter about the merits of this, despite the National Rifle Association's (NRA) effort to gun him down.

A variety of studies have shown that up to 90 percent of Americans are in agreement with the need for increased background checks of gun buyers. Even in West Virginia, a state known for gun ownership, about three quarters of the population is comfortable with these background checks.

But the NRA isn't. And because it is not, the organization's leaders are trying to sully Senator Manchin's name. They say he isn't a strong Second Amendment supporter; they are planning to spend about $100,000 on ads to get that message to West Virginians.

The Manchin-Toomey (Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.) proposal for increased background checks was approved by a majority of the Senate in April (54-46) but needed 60 votes to pass. Interestingly, the NRA does not seem to be targeting Toomey, a Republican, the way they are Manchin, a Democrat. One would think that a Republican who advocated stricter gun control laws would have been in the cross hairs of the NRA.

Now the NRA and anti-gun background check enthusiasts point out that the "bad guys" will still get guns and the "good guys" will miss out with this legislation. I'll agree that some "bad guys" will get guns and whatever else they want, because that's how they function. No legislation will easily curtail their activities.

I'll also admit this legislation will do nothing to protect 2-year-old children from their 5-year-old siblings who have their own loaded rifle nearby, children who find loaded guns in their parents' cars or homes, or relatives who buy guns for family members with known mental health issues.

It will not curtail deaths of feuding kin, irate drunks or angry neighbors. Nope. This legislation isn't going to change that one iota; needless gun deaths will still occur.

The proposed gun legislation that has riled the NRA will not prohibit sales and exchanges of guns between family and friends. It will not make it more difficult for law-abiding folks to have or use their guns.

For a short while after the horrific massacres at Virginia Tech, a Colorado movie theater, Rep. Gabby Gifford's talk and especially after the one at the Newtown Elementary School, when 20 little children and six caring adults lay dead, our nation realized we should address gun ownership rationally.

But time can dull good intentions as we push bad memories to the back of our minds. We forget why we wanted checks on gun buyers. Senators Manchin and Toomey didn't forget; they acted realistically. For that, the NRA aims to penalize Senator Manchin with his West Virginia constituents.

Don't let the NRA dictate what our senator should do. If you think Senator Manchin is on the right track, let him know at the toll free phone number 855-275-5737 or email him. After all, he is a straight shooter on the subject of guns.

Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist. She is a former citizen member of The Herald-Dispatch editorial board and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page. Her email is dwmufson@comcast.net.



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