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Baucus, Manchin Find Obama's Gun Proposals Wanting

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Montana Sen. Max Baucus, one of the Democratic Party’s foremost gun rights supporters, cautioned Wednesday against overreaching federal mandates that could adversely affect law-abiding gun owners.

“Recent tragedies have shaken all of us, and everyone wants to do their part to protect our children and communities from violence of all kinds.

“Enforcing the laws we already have on the books is good first step, and it’s clear more needs to be done to address access to mental health care,” Baucus said. “Before passing new laws, we need a thoughtful debate that respects responsible, law-abiding gun owners in Montana instead of one-size-fits all directives from Washington.”

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III expressed disappointment that Obama did not seek the establishment of a commission to explore ways to combat acts of mass violence such as the one in Newtown, Conn., that took the lives of 20 children and eight adults, including the shooter.

“A national commission can build the consensus we need for real action backed not only by gun control advocates, mental health experts and entertainment industry executives but also by law-abiding gun owners who fully understand the history and heritage of firearms in America,” Manchin said. “Violence destroys the dignity, hopes and lives of millions of Americans, and we have a unique opportunity to stop this epidemic but only if we can put politics aside and have an honest and effective conversation about what to do about our culture of mass violence.”

Manchin withheld judgement on the specific proposals made by Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday, saying that because of his schedule in West Virginia, he had not yet considered the details.

Manchin’s senior West Virginia colleague, retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller, struck a far more supportive tone.

“Throughout my career, I’ve fought to reduce gun violence, including supporting the original ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and eliminating loopholes in background checks for firearms purchases, as well as efforts to require child safety locks with every handgun purchase and prohibit domestic violence abusers from purchasing firearms,” Rockefeller said. “Today, I support steps that build on these ideas, while making sure our hunters’ and sportsmen’s rights are protected.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has enjoyed support of the National Rifle Association in the past, said in a statement Wednesday that he would be “committed to ensuring that the Senate will consider legislation that addresses gun violence and other aspects of violence in our society early this year. “

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