When it comes to the right of the people to keep and bear arms, you’re either for it or you’re against. There is no middle ground. You either support the Second Amendment and believe “shall not be infringed” means what it says or you don’t. Plain and simple, right?
A lot of gun owners think this way. Are they wrong? No. But at the same time, they have to realize that not everyone shares this binary way of thinking. There are a lot of what I call “moderate” pro-gunners. They believe in the Second Amendment but they also believe in “reasonable limitations.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) appears to fall into this category. He describes himself as “law-abiding gun owner, hunter, card-carrying life member of the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment advocate,” but along with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), he was the architect of a federal bill that would have required background checks on all gun purchases. Known as the 2013 Manchin-Toomey amendment, it was vociferously opposed by the NRA.
According to the nation’s gun lobby, Manchin-Toomey’s universal background check bill “would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members” to get government approval.
Some gun owners believed that Manchin’s push for universal background checks was reasonable. Some believe that it wasn’t reasonable and would have paved the way for more draconian gun-control laws. At the end of the day, the bill failed to reach the 60 votes needed to override a GOP-led filibuster and clear the Senate.
More recently, Manchin came out against a Constitutional concealed carry bill in West Virginia. Constitutional carry or permitless carry allows one to carry a concealed firearm without first having to receive a permit. Essentially, the Second Amendment is one’s license to carry concealed — no training, no fees, no background check which are typically some of the prerequisites to obtaining a permit.
For Manchin, Constitutional carry is a bad idea.
“I have always supported a West Virginian’s right to bear arms,” Manchin said in a statement last week. “Senate Bill 347 would allow a person to carry a concealed gun without a permit or requirement of safety training and that is irresponsible and dangerous to the people of West Virginia.”
SB 347 cleared both chambers of the Legislature. It’s now on it’s way to the Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s desk.
“There is not one West Virginian whose Second Amendment rights will be infringed without this bill,” Manchin continued. “In West Virginia, we believe in gun sense, which is common sense, and it only makes common sense for concealed carry applicants to receive proper training. I commend the brave legislators who voted no and represented their constituents who know that this is irresponsible.”
As the NRA-ILA pointed out, Manchin’s stance is “bizarre.” Not only because one is allowed to carry a firearm openly without a permit — i.e. without “proper training” — in West Virginia but also because he sponsored and voted for federal legislation that would allow “non-residents to carry concealed without a permit in West Virginia.”
(Relevant gun discussion starts at 4:00 minutes)
Needless to say, Manchin is all over the road when it comes to the Second Amendment. He is very inconsistent. Maybe he is confused. But, one could argue that he is still pro-gun. That because he supports a shall-issue concealed carry standard, which when compared to a no-issue (CCW ban) or may-issue (arbitrary government approval for CCW) he is still one of the good guys. Right?
It’s an interesting question because at times Manchin is an ally for and at times he is an adversary to gun rights. And, of course, he is not the only one. There are probably millions of people who share Manchin’s perspective, particularly as it relates to carry. They are pro-shall issue, but anti-Constitutional carry.
Regardless of whether or not you or I believe they’re being reasonable or sensible (I could easily make a case they are not, given the negative correlation between gun ownership, expanded carry rights and crime statistics; gun rights have been expanded over past two decades, crime has dropped uniformly), the reality is that we can’t afford to alienate these people. When it comes to the Manchins of the world we have to respect their right to have an opinion on the matter. We don’t have to agree with them and we can definitely point out where they are being illogical, but we can’t disrespect them, we can’t shout them down and we can’t label them “anti-gunners.” If we do, we run the risk of losing a large portion of mainstream gun owners.