Joe Manchin Is Open to Raising Age to Buy Assault Weapons to 21

Conservative Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), who has repeatedly obstructed his Democratic colleagues’ agenda over the past year, has expressed support for gun reform in the wake of the recent string of mass shootings across the country.

Manchin told CNN on Monday that he would vote in favor of legislation that would raise the age for purchasing assault-style weapons up to 21. In his opinion, he said, there isn’t any real reason for anyone to own an AR-15, the weapon often used by killers in mass shootings.

Manchin, who is a hunter, said that he’d never have “a need” for that type of weapon.

“I like to shoot, I like to go out and hunt. I like to go out sports shooting. I do all of that. But I’ve never felt I needed something of that magnitude,” Manchin said.

Manchin also said he was open to “looking at” a complete ban on assault weapons, similar to a law that was passed in the mid-1990s but which expired in 2004. Such a ban, while endorsed by President Joe Biden, would be a non-starter for Republicans, and would likely be blocked by a Senate filibuster.

It’s unlikely that a compromise bill between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate would contain any of the measures Biden called for in a speech on gun violence last week. Instead, the bipartisan measure will likely include a so-called “red flag” provision, as well as proposals to increase access to mental health programs and provide more funding for school districts to secure their buildings. In order for the bill to pass once it is drafted, however, the bipartisan group of senators must secure the votes of all Democrats, plus 10 Republicans.

Another option for gun reform is Rep. Don Beyer’s (D-Virginia) proposal, which looks to impose a hefty 1,000 percent tax on the purchase of assault-style weapons and accessories. This tax burden would likely reduce the sale of new AR-15 models, Beyer said.

If Beyer’s proposal is attached to a budget reconciliation package, it would be able to circumvent the filibuster and could pass into law with only a simple majority in both houses of Congress.

The call for gun reform comes in the wake of numerous mass shootings over the past few weeks. On May 14, a white supremacist gunman killed 10 Black people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. On May 24, a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in an elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. And on June 1, four people were shot and killed by a gunman at a hospital complex in Tulsa, Oklahoma.