CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., says he will not resign from the National Rifle Association as others have done in the wake of failed gun control amendments in the U.S. Senate. Instead, he prefers changing the NRA "from within."
Manchin, a longtime member and supporter of the NRA, co-sponsored new legislation with Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., that would expand background checks when people buy guns.
Adolphus Busch IV, whose grandfather founded Anheuser-Busch, resigned from the NRA last Thursday because it opposed strengthening background checks. A day after the Senate could not get the 60 votes it needed to pass new legislation, Busch left the organization he joined in 1975.
Manchin told the Gazette on Sunday, "I am not going to resign from the NRA. I am going to try to change it from within. I think there are more NRA members like me."
But NRA's current leadership, Manchin said, are trying "to portray the legislation as something it is not.
"They are saying you don't have the right to sell guns to your family members and friends [without background checks]. That is a boldfaced lie. They are not honest or honorable with the propaganda they are putting out.
"If you don't like it, that is fine. But don't make something up," Manchin said.
The Manchin-Toomey bill would have required background checks on weapons sold by dealers at gun shows -- who are not registered as gun dealers themselves -- and a growing number of web-based dealers. Today, those gun dealers are not required to conduct any background checks.
In a letter to NRA President David Keene, Busch wrote that he fails "to see how the NRA can disregard the overwhelming will of its members who see background checks as reasonable."
Busch also wrote, "One only has to look at the makeup of the [NRA's] 75-member board of directors, dominated by manufacturing interests, to confirm my point.
"The NRA appears to have evolved into the lobby for gun and ammunition manufacturers rather than gun owners."
Manchin urges law-abiding gun owners and everyone else to read his 49-page piece of legislation, which is available on www.manchin.senate.gov.
"Tell me if you don't believe this legislation protects and strengthens your rights as a gun owner by preventing someone who has been a criminal or has a mental problem from buying a gun without a background check.
"And this makes no infringements whatsoever on private transactions. If you want to post a gun for sale on your bulletin board at work or church, do it."
On Sunday, Manchin said he believes today's NRA leadership has "come to the point where they have this paranoia that the government is going to come and take your guns."
The Manchin-Toomey legislation, Manchin stressed, is "a compromise bill. It is not Obama's bill. I am sure they don't like the bill. It is a compromise. We don't go to the far left or to the far right."
The proposed legislation also "cleans up a lot of things about the way veterans are treated. If they had some problems when they came back [from service in wars], this bill gives them a chance to get well. This bill is still alive."
Manchin hopes "gun owners and NRA members know the [NRA] leadership has been telling you falsehoods."
The Manchin-Toomey legislation won support from 51 of 55 Senate Democrats, as well as four Republicans, which also included John McCain from Arizona, Susan Collins from Maine and Mark Kirk from Illinois.
"The executive leadership of any organization should not mislead people to promote their own agenda. I am going to keep pressing them on the issue."
Manchin believes the NRA leadership is "counting on people not reading the bill. Reading has become a lost art in Washington."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 204-348-5164.