Gays, Guns, and Doing the Right Thing


Senator Joe Manchin and Margaret Carlson at New York IDEAS 2013 on

Joe Manchin, soon to become the senior Senator of West Virginia after Jay Rockefeller‘s retirement, was interviewed by Bloomberg’s Margaret Carlson about his efforts to close gun show loopholes and push broader background checks on gun purchasers.  The interview took place earlier this week at New York Ideas 2013 presented by The Atlantic, the Aspen Institute, and the New-York Historical Society.

During this interview, Manchin said that he and Senator Pat Toomey were not done and would be bringing the legislation back to the Senate.  Joe Biden says he’s going all in as well.  Just the other evening at a Manhattan event, Senator John McCain said that in his entire career, he had never seen the US public so wound up on anything as new gun legislation in the aftermath of the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

A particularly compelling part of the interview above starts when Manchin says that 90% of gun owners are sensible and support sensible measures like the background checks but that we needed to be careful of driving those 90% into the same turf as the 10% who think they need to prepare to do battle with their own government.  Manchin essentially says that to understand how gun owners see their world and choices, one needs to be a real gun owner.  Margaret Carlson says that she doesn’t need to be gay to understand gay rights.

Carlson then writes about Manchin and her interview in her piece “Now It’s the NRA’s Turn to Understand Us“:

I admire Manchin’s persistence and sincerity. I want him to succeed. But he puts a heavy burden on the 90 percent who favor background checks to understand the 10 percent who don’t. I don’t need to be gay to understand gay rights. Why do I need to own a gun to understand gun rights?

At any rate, my understanding wouldn’t affect my view of the Manchin-Toomey bill. Family members would still be able to sell to one another, over the Thanksgiving turkey or over the Internet, as they prefer. There would be no regulation of noncommercial sales. The bill would prohibit a national registry and impose a 15-year felony sentence for any public official who tries to start one.

I too admire Senator Manchin for doggedly working on sensible gun management policies and think that he’s helping to bridge two worlds who see their rights and safety in very different ways.

Once Manchin succeeds, which I think he will in the end, on helping to move us toward a safer gun-management system where background checks become second nature, Margaret Carlson’s comment on ‘not needing to be gay to understand gay rights’ may be interesting policy territory for the Senator to consider.

— Steve Clemons


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