CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — A group of U.S. Senators, including West Virginia’s Senator Joe Manchin, are planning to introduce a bill that would promote gun safety nationwide.
Gun control is one of the most partisan political issues in the U.S. today, with the recent shooting in Uvalde bringing the issue to the surface once again. In Republican majority West Virginia, many are concerned that gun control laws will be too strict and limit the rights of law-abiding gun owners. In a press conference on Monday, Democrat Senator Joe Manchin said that he believes that that will not be an issue with this bill.
“I come from a very strong gun culture in West Virginia,” Senator Manchin said. He remembered his first gun and hunting as a child fondly and said that, as a gun owner himself, he does not want to be viewed as a criminal because he owns a gun. That being said, he pointed out that something must be done.
Manchin explained that when he travels, he asked people internationally if they have ever visited or would want to visit America. On a recent trip he asked his waitress, “‘Would you like to come to America?’ and she says, ‘No I wouldn’t, I’m scared of guns.’ This tells you it’s not just West Virginia, and it’s not just Texas, and it’s not just [the] United States, it’s the world and how they perceive us,” Manchin said.
Manchin and 10 Republican senators are supporting the new gun safety bill geared toward protecting children from gun violence. “I don’t think we’re taking anyone’s rights away.”
The soon-to-be-proposed bill includes nine major topics ranging from increased background checks for younger gun buyers to increasing mental health funding in schools. Although the agreement has not been introduced into the Senate, Senator Manchin said that a draft of the bill could be introduced as early as Wednesday, June 15.
What does the agreement change about gun control?
As far as gun control, the agreement includes four major points related to the control of firearms. Firstly, the bill would add anyone convicted of domestic violence and who has a restraining order against them to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), making them unable to buy a gun. During his press conference, Manchin said that by preventing those who have been proven violent in relationships from buying guns, he hopes that this portion of the bill will prevent people from being killed or maimed in domestic situations.
Within this section of the agreement, it is unknown whether the bill would include retroactivity to remove guns from previous gun owners who are convicted of domestic violence or those convicted prior to the passage of the bill. Senator Manchin said that that would depend on the finalized language of the bill.
Another main change the bill would make regarding guns is increased background checks for young gun owners. In the agreement, gun buyers who are younger than 21 would have their juvenile criminal records released prior to buying the weapon. As Senator Manchin pointed out, the shooter in the recent Uvalde shooting was 18 years old and purchased the weapon used, an AR-15 rifle, legally. Manchin said that he didn’t want to put an age limit on rifles and prevent young hunters from buying guns, but by increasing background checks, he hopes to prevent shootings like Uvalde. “We know that there’s a lot of troubled people on the streets today that should not have a gun or access to a gun… We know now that these young 18-year-olds, the last two mass shootings were 18-year-olds, and we know that we have to intervene,” said Manchin. The shooter in Uvalde had signs that would have shown up on a more intensive background check and prevented him from purchasing the shooting weapon, according to Senator Manchin.
Penalties for straw purchasing would also be increased. Straw purchasing is when someone buys a gun on behalf of or for someone else. People use it as a way to obtain guns when they don’t have a clean record. The agreement says that penalties for the buyer, who has a clean record, would be increased under the bill.
The final gun-related portion of the agreement would clarify the definition of “Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer.” This would work to prevent people who are evading licensing requirements from selling firearms.
Funding for mental health and safety
The remainder of the agreement provides funding for mental health and safety, primarily in schools. “Quality of the education is only as good as the children are safe in their schools,” Senator Manchin said during the press conference. The bill will make federal funding available for safety measures to be added in schools, such as violence prevention and training.
Additionally, the agreement includes funding for State Crisis Intervention Order, mental health support services in schools, children and family mental health services, and telehealth mental and behavioral health services.
Will the bill pass?
Party-wise, Manchin said that some Democrats may say the bill is not enough while some Republicans will say it’s further than they want to go, but he hopes that both parties will be willing to push past partisanship for the sake of the children. “I would like to think, knowing the gravity of what we’re facing and absolutely the results of these horrific tragedies and the carnage that goes with them, that [House Democrats will] say ‘it’s not enough, but it’s a start,'” Manchin said.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has said that he is against any laws that limit guns, and Manchin said that he is willing to work with Morrisey and other lawmakers that have similar beliefs to make the bill possible.
Other senators who were part of the agreement include Chris Murphy (D-CN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Cory Booker (D- NJ), Richard Burr (R-NC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE.), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).
They released the following statement on June 12:
“Today, we are announcing a commonsense, bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our country. Families are scared, and it is our duty to come together and get something done that will help restore their sense of safety and security in their communities. Our plan increases needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those who are adjudicated as mentally ill can’t purchase weapons. Most importantly, our plan saves lives while also protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. We look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support and passing our commonsense proposal into law.”State ment from Bipartisan senators on Gun Safety Agreement
The House of Representatives is also working to pass its own legislation involving gun control.