CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, said Wednesday he is not "supporting a ban on anything" but wants to begin an open dialogue about gun control issues in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.
"I would be very open to talk about all the different issues," Manchin said during a telephone interview with the Gazette Wednesday.
But earlier Wednesday, Talkline Radio show host Hoppy Kercheval asked Manchin if he will support legislation proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to reinstate legislation that banned assault weapons between 1994 and 2004.
"I'm not supporting a ban on anything. I'm supporting a conversation on everything," Manchin told Kercheval.
"I am open to talking about how do we have a better society with less violence and not blame just the gun owner, because if you blame the gun owner, you're blaming me," Manchin added.
Last Friday, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot 20 young children and six adults, and then himself, at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The Newtown tragedy remains "in everybody's hearts. We are all hurting," he said.
On Monday, Manchin said the shootings at Sandy Hook have made him want to discuss regulations about gun ownership. That day, he said he doesn't know "any people who go hunting with assault rifles with 30 rounds in their guns."
Lanza had multiple 30-round magazines with him during the shootings.
"From the gun owner's standpoint, myself being a lifetime member of the NRA, we need to be open to talk about all the different types of guns people are using for different purposes," Manchin said.
"I am not familiar with people using the military assault rifle for the things I use my gun for, or people who use large clips. When I hunt, I rarely use more than three shells at any time," Manchin said.
In a statement released Tuesday -- its first since the Newtown tragedy -- the National Rifle Association announced its leaders will be in Washington, D.C., on Friday for a news conference to discuss renewed calls for gun control after last Friday's killings.
On Wednesday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., released a statement about the dangers posed by the role that violence plays in video games, movies and other entertainment venues.
Rockefeller is introducing legislation to study the impact that violent content in video games has upon children.
Manchin told the Gazette that he believes "the entertainment industry has a tremendous responsibility.
"I think Sen. Rockefeller is working in the right direction when he talks about glorifying violence and the lack of help for mental illness. Look at Weston or St. Mary's [hospitals in West Virginia]. The support hasn't been there and people are in tremendous need."
Manchin stressed that he is not "for or against" any solutions.
"I am for everything being on the table, talking on all issues, having all parties able to support or defend their positions.
"At the end of the day, we will all have to make our decisions on the so-called military assault rifles and high-volume magazines," Manchin said. "But I will protect Second Amendment rights. I have always had my guns."
Manchin said he was pleased to hear the NRA will hold a news conference and "become part of the meaningful discussion of preventing this from happening again.
"How do we change the prevalence of violence in society? The NRA needs to be open. The motion picture and entertainment industries need to be open. The health-care and mental hygiene industries need to open."
Feinstein filed her legislation for a renewal on the ban against assault weapons late Tuesday.
Manchin said he wants to start an open dialogue, but he repeated an earlier statement that he has not decided whether to back Feinstein's bill.
Rockefeller said, "At times like this, we need to take a comprehensive look at all the ways we can keep our kids safe. I have long expressed concern about the impact of the violent content our kids see and interact with every day."
Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, recently introduced legislation directing the National Academy of Sciences to study the impact of violent video games on children.
Rockefeller criticized recent court decisions that failed to do anything to control the violent content of games and videos.
"They believe that violent video games are no more dangerous to young minds than classic literature or Saturday morning cartoons. Parents, pediatricians, and psychologists know better.
"These court decisions show we need to do more and explore ways Congress can lay additional groundwork on this issue," Rockefeller said. "I call on my colleagues to join me in passing this important legislation quickly."
Rockefeller is also asking the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission to examine these issues.
"Changes in technology now allow kids to access violent content online with less parental involvement," he said. "Major corporations, including the video game industry, make billions on marketing and selling violent content to children. They have a responsibility to protect our children.
"If they do not, you can count on the Congress to take a more aggressive role," he said.
The National Academy of Sciences, Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission must all send Congress reports about their investigations within 18 months.
During his conversation with President Obama on Monday, Manchin said, "the deaths of these children demand that each and every one of us in Washington and the United States be willing to talk with each other."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.