Manchin wants to raise age to 21 for gun purchases, sees no need for AR-15s

“I never thought I needed this type of high-capacity automatic weapon,” Manchin told Les actualites on Monday. “I like shooting, I like going out and hunting. I like shooting sports. I do all of this. But I never felt that I needed something of this magnitude. »

Manchin also said he “would have no problem considering” backing a ban on so-called assault weapons – a proposal pushed by the White House and Democratic leaders but which has no chance of winning. the 60 votes necessary in the Senate.

“It depends on what they, how they would approach it,” Manchin said. “I’m open to anything that makes sense for firearms. »

Comments from the most conservative Democrat in the Senate — who hails from a state with a strong gun culture — show growing Democratic support for imposing tough new gun laws as senators try to see if there can be a compromise with Republicans to deal with episodes of gun violence ravaging communities across the country. The position underscores how the two sides still have a number of major disagreements to resolve as they race to strike a deal this week amid public outcry over mass shootings across the country.

Manchin is part of a small bipartisan group of Senate negotiators trying to finalize a gun deal. Negotiators are not discussing some of President Joe Biden’s demands, such as renewing the expired assault weapons ban, but are considering a handful of changes, including urging states to enact red flag laws , which allow for the temporary removal of guns from people deemed a danger to themselves or others, expand background checks on gun purchases, strengthen the mental health care system and strengthen school safety . There are also talks of new regulations on the trafficking of weapons between states and potential new legislation on the safe storage of weapons in the residences of gun owners.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants a deal resolved by this week, but both sides are unsure if they can get there.

While Democrats can pass gun bills in the House based on a party-line vote, as they plan to do this week, calculating the vote count is much more difficult in the Senate. Democrats control the narrowest possible majority in the chamber with just 50 seats and would need at least 10 Republicans to break down a filibuster and advance any potential gun package.

US deadly weekend of more mass shootings raises stakes for Senate gun talks

In Monday’s interview, Manchin argued that two new laws could prevent some of the recent mass shootings: requiring individuals to be 21 to purchase high-powered rifles and imposing state minimum standards to create laws on the red flag. Both items are part of bipartisan negotiations, but Senate sources have expressed skepticism that raising the gun purchase age will be included in any final package due to GOP resistance.

“Every time we tried to do something after a horrible tragedy like this, people said, ‘Well, that wouldn’t have stopped that, that wouldn’t have stopped that,'” Manchin said. “Well, we know we can do something that would have prevented that: raise the age. Making sure age gives us at least a chance to work with that person, see them, evaluate them, and have some maturity with them. And the second thing is that we know that red flag laws work, as long as there is due process. »

Republicans have pushed back on raising the age to 21, with some pointing to a 2-1 decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals finding that a ban on 18-20 year olds buying the guns is unconstitutional, though that a full panel of the court did not rule on the matter.

The two top GOP senators involved in the gun talks on Capitol Hill — the senses. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas – signaled late Monday that Congress is unlikely to raise the age requirement for the purchase of semi-automatic firearms, instead saying they are considering modify the criminal background check system to access the records of minors before a sale is concluded.

“I would say it will be controversial,” Cornyn told Les actualites of raising the age to 21. “But that is under discussion. »

Manchin rejected the argument that the age increase is unconstitutional. “Why do we have a driver’s license? Why is there a certain age for everything we do in this society? ” He asked. “It has always been accepted. So I don’t see how this thing can be different from the other things we do. »

Manchin, who is the co-sponsor of a stalled bill to expand background checks to all gun shows and internet sales, said he is still pushing to try to include its proposal in any final agreement. And he pushed back when asked to narrow the proposal so controls weren’t needed on internet sales.

“Oh, internet sales need to be taken care of,” Manchin said.

As Democrats try to see if a deal can be reached this week, Manchin said talks should continue into next week if senators are close to a deal.

“I think if we’re close to getting a deal, yeah, I’m not going to push something that’s going to blow the thing up,” Manchin said.

This story was updated with additional information on Monday.

Morgan Rimmer, Lauren Fox, Ted Barrett and Paul LeBlanc of Les actualites contributed to this report.

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