Roundtable

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (second from left) hosted a campaign stop at St. Albans Gun and Archery on Monday to discuss his race against Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Patrick Morrisey hosted a campaign stop at a gun store. Joe Manchin shot a lawsuit with a rifle in a campaign ad.

It was another day in West Virginia’s U.S. Senate race.

With a little more than a month until the midterm elections, Morrisey, the state’s Republican attorney general, is working to paint Manchin, the Democratic senator up for re-election, as an agent of gun control.

Speaking at a gun and archery store Monday, Morrisey said with Manchin opposing both concealed carry laws and federal gun reciprocity legislation (allowing people who are licensed to carry in one state to do so in another), the incumbent is no friend of the gun world.

“This is one of the core issues, the areas of difference I have with Joe Manchin,” he said.

As a U.S. senator in 2015, Manchin came out against a bill in the West Virginia Legislature that would have allowed people to carry concealed handguns without a permit, calling it “irresponsible and dangerous to the people of West Virginia.”

However, in the U.S. Senate, Manchin introduced the National Rifle Association-backed National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2012, that would allow people with valid identification and a concealed carry permit to carry weapons into any other state that allows concealed carry.

In 2013, he voted for a similar amendment, although the Senate at large voted it down 57-43, short of the 60-vote threshold. When asked to source Morrisey’s claims about Manchin on reciprocity, Nathan Brand, a Morrisey spokesman, cited a clip from a 2017 town hall in which Manchin seems to opine against federal reciprocity legislation, although the segment is limited. A Manchin spokesman could not be reached to clarify Monday evening.

Following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 students and six educators dead, Manchin and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., introduced legislation to strengthen background check measures at gun shows and on the internet. It failed, and efforts to resurrect it have not gotten off the ground.

Flanked by representatives from gun lobby groups on Monday, Morrisey said he has worked as attorney general to secure reciprocity agreements with nearly 40 states around the country.

He also expressed an openness to the idea of arming teachers to prevent school shootings, which was first expressed by President Donald Trump.

“I’ve always been open to arming teachers, but I also think that you want to really invest the time, energy and resources to make sure that these schools are safe,” Morrisey said.

Manchin, who declined an interview request through a spokesman Monday, is harder to pin down on guns.

“I haven’t talked to any teachers whatsoever that thought that was a good idea,” Manchin said of arming teachers in a March interview. “I really haven’t had a teacher come to me and say that was a good idea.”

Last year, Manchin joined with Republicans to repeal a rule imposed by the administration of President Barack Obama that required the Social Security Administration to report to the National Instant Background Check System any individuals who may be a danger to themselves or others, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence’s description of the bill. Trump has since signed the bill into law.

In recent weeks, Morrisey has harped repeatedly on the NRA giving Manchin a “D” rating on guns.

“Let me be clear, I think that’s charitable,” he said Monday.

However, when Manchin ran for Senate in 2010 and 2012, the NRA gave him an “A” rating, not to mention the “A+” articles/20041022/nra-pvf-endorses-manchin-for-governor" target="_blank">he earned in his 2004 gubernatorial bid, as was noted in a PolitiFact article.

“Law-abiding gun owners in the Mountain State know that we can support common sense background checks at gun shows and internet sales that keep guns out of the hands of terrorists and criminals while also protecting Second Amendment rights,” said Grant Herring, a Manchin campaign spokesman. “Manchin and most gun owners understand that the standards at a gun shop should apply to gun sales online and at a gun show.”

Last month, Manchin’s campaign released a new ad showing Manchin shooting a lawsuit (with “Lawsuit On Coverage of Pre-Existing Conditions” stamped across the cover sheet) with a rifle.

The ad is a reference to Morrisey signing West Virginia on to an ongoing federal lawsuit led by the Texas attorney general challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. It is also a riff on a 2010 ad he cut in which he literally shoots down cap-and-trade legislation.

Recently, Manchin has been generally willing to grant interviews regarding gun rights and gun control. However, in 2013, the Martinsburg Journal ran a Q&A with Manchin, topped with an editors’ note stating the interview was only permitted with the condition the interviewer not ask questions about gun control legislation or the Second Amendment, as requested by Manchin’s staff.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at jake.zuckerman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4814 or follow @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

Politics Reporter