Ninety percent of Americans -- and most members of the National Rifle Association -- want to keep pistols and assault weapons out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people.
But when Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., proposed a simple, practical, reasonable method to do it, the NRA went ballistic. The extremist gun lobby is pouring $100,000 of member money into TV ads denouncing Manchin, the NRA's former hero.
Weirdly, it seems as if the NRA approves of guns for criminals and people with mental illness. That's utterly illogical.
At present, dangerous people who can't pass background checks easily can buy arms, no questions asked, from informal sellers at gun shows and through Internet and local ads. Manchin drafted a bipartisan bill to close this deadly loophole by extending checks to those sales.
Manchin acted because he felt deep sorrow for families of 20 first-graders and six adults killed in the infamous Connecticut school massacre. His bill gathered a majority of Senate backers, but Republicans invoked a filibuster, and the first vote didn't reach the 60 percent required for passage. Manchin plans to try again, as more Republican senators change their minds.
We're proud of Manchin, who has become a leader in cooperative actions in Congress. He's brave enough to tackle problems that other politicians duck.
As the attack ads hit West Virginia television broadcasts, Manchin said:
"Unfortunately, the NRA leadership has lost its way and is more concerned about political power than gun rights and gun safety. I am the same proud gun owner and NRA member that I have always been, and I believe that criminal and mental background checks are a commonsense approach to protect our neighbors and children without infringing on our Second Amendment rights. I think moist NRA members agree with me."
He's correct. Several polls this year found that about 90 percent of Americans -- and more than 80 percent of gun owners -- and more than 70 percent of NRA members -- want universal background checks to screen out potential killers. Manchin's bill exempts personal sales between relatives and friends.
As you watch those anti-Manchin TV ads, remember that the NRA's own members disagree with them. Leaders of the powerful gun lobby seem to have gone around the bend.