There are tentative signs that the heart-rending tragedy in Connecticut is starting to change America’s conversation about guns.
These are early glimmers, and it may or may not lead to legislation in a Congress that has been staunchly opposed to gun control for nearly two decades. But some in that camp are rethinking their positions.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat endorsed by the NRA, said on Morning Joe on Monday that “everything should be on the table.”
Manchin said that NRA officials should be part of the conversation and “it’s time to move beyond rhetoric. We need to sit down and have a common sense discussion and move in a reasonable way.”
Noting that he had just returned with his family from a deer hunting trip, the senator said: “I don’t know anyone in the hunting or sporting arena that goes out with an assault rifle. I don’t know anybody that needs 30 rounds in the clip to go hunting. I mean, these are things that need to be talked about.”
Host Joe Scarborough, a former Florida congressman, also announced on the MSNBC show that he is reexamining his position in light of the Newtown school massacre.
“I am a conservative Republican who received the NRA’s highest ratings over four terms in Congress,” Scarborough said. “I come to you this morning with a heavy heart and no easy answers. Still, I’ve spent the past few days grasping for solutions and struggling for answers — while daring to question my own long-held belief on these subjects.”
He added: “I knew that day that the ideologies of my past career were no longer relevant to the future that I want, that I demand for my children. Friday changed everything. It must change everything.”
Scarborough accused entertainment moguls of glorifying murder, and said:
“Our Bill of Rights does not guarantee gun manufacturers the absolute right to sell military-style, high-caliber, semi-automatic combat assault rifles with high-capacity magazines to whoever the hell they want.”
It's not easy for people in politics, or media, to change their minds and walk away from past positions. Needless to say, many lawmakers still remain staunchly opposed to tightening gun restrictions. But with President Obama vowing to take the lead, the tenor of the debate might be changing.
And how has the NRA responded? The gun lobby, which has made no comment on Newtown, has deactivated its Facebook page, where it recently boasted of having attracted 1.7 million fans. After the movie theater shooting in Aurora last summer, the group shut down a key Twitter account. So the NRA, at least for now, is fleeing the social media arena.