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Manchin, 3 other senators want Biden to back violence inquiry

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and three other U.S. senators told Vice President Joe Biden this week that he should support creating a National Commission on Violence when he submits the report from his task force on gun violence to Congress and the White House next month.

In addition to Manchin, the letter to Biden was signed by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.; and John McCain, R-Ariz. Collins and Lieberman will be senators only for a few more days; neither ran for re-election, and their terms will officially end on Jan 3.

The four senators also sent Biden proposed legislation to create that commission, in the wake of the tragic Dec. 14 shootings in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 young children and six educators.

"Several of us first made this proposal in the wake of the mass shooting at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999," their letter said, "when we concluded our nation needs a fuller understanding of why so many of our young people are turning into killers and how to end this recurring nightmare.

"We believe that the root causes of this violence are complex and that responding to and preventing it will require a comprehensive approach that leaves no stone unturned.

"If we are to act in a comprehensive manner that strengthens the mental health care system, improves law enforcement, results in healthier and happier families, keeps guns out of the hands of those who would do ill with them, and addresses an entertainment culture that too often glorifies violence," the letter states, "it will be essential to build a consensus grounded in facts.

"The recommendations of a National Commission on Violence could provide the basis for such a consensus."

In the days after the Newtown shootings, Manchin called for a conversation on controlling gun violence. After he was held up in many quarters as a pro-gun politician who was changing his position after the massacre, Manchin appeared to walk back his comments and reiterated his support for the National Rifle Association, the largest gun-advocacy group in the United States.

In a column published in The Washington Post on Dec. 21, Manchin argued that a national commission "could lead the national conversation that is desperately needed in the wake of Newtown.

"It could hold public hearings, after which it would issue a report and recommendations based on facts, not emotions or preconceived notions of what it takes to end mass violence in America," Manchin wrote.

In their letter to Biden, Manchin and his three Senate colleagues wrote, "As you go about your work in the coming weeks, we respectfully urge you to consider this proposal and include it in your recommendations to the president and Congress next year."

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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