The Washington Times - June 20, 2013, 08:07AM

Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, said Thursday he is “wide open” to helping accommodate senators wary about his efforts to pass gun-purchase background check legislation, but that he’s not going to create any holes.

“I’m not going to create any holes on background checks; I think we need to strengthen our approach on mental illness,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” There’s so many things we can do, and I’m wide open to talking to all my friends — Republicans and Democrats — to see if they can find a comfort level.

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“I just need some help … basically educating the constituents throughout America that the bill that we passed, if you’re a law-abiding gun owner, this was a great bill for you. We’ve expanded your ability to use the Second Amendment. But if also you’re a criminal or you’re mentally insane, you might not like this bill. If you’re a terrorist, I know you won’t like the bill.”


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Vice President Joseph R. Biden, in outlining a progress report on the executive actions that President Obama has taken unilaterally on gun violence since the Connecticut school shootings in December, vowed earlier this week that the legislative push is not over.


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Mr. Manchin said he’s not going to second-guess New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s targeting of senators who voted against the bill, including Democrats who did not support it.


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“The politics will play itself out — you know that,” he said. “An election’s coming up in 2014. Right now, we need to re-educate and make sure that the law-abiding gun owners, the NRA members are not listening and being misled by the leadership in Washington.”


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A new ad from Mr. Manchin also made its debut on the program Thursday after the National Rifle Association launched its own ad campaign against him last week.


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“I’m a lifetime NRA member, but I don’t walk in lockstep with the NRA’s Washington leadership, this administration or any special interest group,” Mr. Manchin says in the 30-second spot. “West Virginia, you know me. I haven’t changed and you know I’ve always fought for our gun rights. I believe that we can protect the Second Amendment and make the community safer. I think most law abiding gun owners agree.”


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But NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told the AP after Mr. Biden’s speech that the senators who voted against the bill are, in fact, following the wishes of their constituents despite a campaign against them like the one from Mr. Bloomberg.


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“Undoubtedly a lot of pressure is being placed on them, but the one thing they have right now is support from voters in their state. And that’s the most important thing to have,” Mr. Arulanandam said.


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In April, 55 senators supported the bill from Mr. Manchin and Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, that would expand gun-purchase background checks to sales online and at gun shows — short of the 60 votes needed to head off a potential filibuster.


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