Checks and Balances

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s detractors sometimes have accused him of being more interested in winning elections than doing the right thing, especially if that involves an unpleasant political fight.

Any number of people, including leaders of West Virginia’s two big teachers’ unions, could tell the critics they are wrong. When he needs to go to battle for a worthwhile cause, such as improving West Virginia’s schools, Manchin does not flinch.

He is taking punches again right now, over a proposal to stiffen background checks for gun buyers. Manchin, among those who crafted the bill, has become its chief spokesman.

That has cost him popularity among some who fear government infringements upon Second Amendment rights. The National Rifle Association spent $1 million to run ads in West Virginia criticizing Manchin’s bill and Manchin personally. And and last week, gun maker Beretta took a shot at Manchin, claiming his support of the bill has convinced company officials to scrap a potential move of company facilities to West Virginia.

Poll after poll shows Americans believe stiffening the background check laws, especially on sales at gun shows and online, may prevent some firearms from falling into the hands of criminals and/or the mentally ill. And despite the criticism he has taken, we believe most thoughtful West Virginians agree with Manchin on this issue.

Manchin’s first attempt at getting the bill through the Senate failed decisively. That prompted him to take a look at the measure and adjust it to make it more palatable to some of those who had reasonable concerns.

Now Manchin says he will try again. He is right to do so. Senators, then House of Representatives members, should stand up for what is right and approve the bill. It does not endanger basic rights. Lawful Americans will still be able to purchase weapons. But it could keep weapons out of the hands of those who should not have them.

And that is something Manchin’s critics – both conservative and liberal – should be for.