The Times West Virginian

April 21, 2013

Debate over gun control likely not over

Times West Virginian

— For the last few generations, Americans have cuddled up on their couches with near-midnight snacks, just waiting for the words “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”

What a surprise when last week’s episode started with a parody of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., alongside Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., over a gun-control compromise in the Senate bearing their names.

From Farmington, W.Va., to being played by an actor on a “Saturday Night Live” skit — that’s an awful long journey.

Though Manchin didn’t actually see the show, he received many, many phone calls from people who had and had the chance to watch it the day after.

“We all grew up with ‘SNL,’” Manchin told The Charleston Daily Mail last week. “It is what it is and it was funny. Bottom line is it was funny.”

The skit, a parody of a White House press conference with Barack Obama (played by Jay Pharoah) and Sens. Manchin and Toomey (portrayed by cast members Jason Sudeikis and Bill Heder) opened NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” the dialogue poked fun at the gun control proposal.

“They both worked very hard together to bang out a bipartisan agreement,” Pharoah said as the president. “These men risked everything for this bill.

“I mean, Senator Manchin represents West Virginia and he’s proposing gun reform? He’s gonna lose his job.”

Well, there’s a few more years before the senator has to worry about that. But in the meantime, the compromise failed in the Senate, Manchin is still standing behind the legislation because he feels it was misunderstood.

“I knew there were a lot skeptics and that paranoia was pretty rampant,” Manchin said at a breakfast hosted a centrist Washington think tank late last week. “In the gun culture from where I’m from, I can go to Oklahoma, I can go anywhere in this country and get the most fierce advocates of gun rights and this will make sense if they read it. It will not be objectionable,” he said.

“What do we do? We break it down; you simply break it down and start getting the facts out there.”

The compromise aimed to expand background checks to more gun buyers, a move that could build support for gun control legislation intended to curb firearms violence. The proposed legislation expanded existing background checks to gun shows and online sales, banned the federal government from creating a gun registry, offered an appeals process before veterans lose their rights to bear arms, and created a panel of non-elected experts to study the causes of mass violence in our society.

But it was met with a great deal of opposition, despite the insistence by Manchin’s office that the bill did not infringe upon anyone’s Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms; take away anyone’s guns; ban any type of firearm; or ban or restrict the use of any kind of bullet or any size clip or magazine.

And when there are opposing sides, you know we’re there to ask our readers to weigh in on the issues on our online poll question, which can be found each week at

Last week we asked “How do you feel about the Manchin-Toomey bill in the Senate that would expand background checks for gun purchases?”

And here’s what you had to say:

It will keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the insane — exactly what we need — 8 percent.

It’s a start, but we need a more comprehensive solution to gun control — 21 percent.

This feels like a back-door approach to limiting Second Amendment freedoms — 70 percent.

The conversation isn’t likely over, just over for now in the Senate. Stay tuned.

This week, let’s talk about what’s on the minds of residents all over the country. Should Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, be tried as a terrorist by the federal government, which limits his legal rights, or by Massachusetts authorities? Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor