Mr. Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, said all ideas had to be on the table in discussions on combating violence.
“It’s one that you have to consider,” Mr. Manchin told West Virginia MetroNews. “I know it’s hard to say you should ban it … [but] I’m open to looking at anything that would protect our children, and these seem to be the weapons of choice for these mass shootings.”
Mr. Manchin said the issue requires more study and public debate before any official action is taken.
“I don’t know about a ban, but I’m open to a discussion on why we are needing so many of these types of weapons in civilians’ hands — for the purpose of what,” he said. “I want to know this.”
While refusing to back such a policy directly, Mr. Manchin signaled his support for other gun control measures like raising the minimum age of purchase for semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21. He also endorsed states adopting “red flag” laws, which allow authorities to confiscate firearms from people whom a court deems dangerous.
“We cannot allow this open season on our children,” Mr. Manchin said. “I will consider everything responsible and reasonable that will help protect children.”
Mr. Manchin is one of a bipartisan group of 11 lawmakers working to craft a deal on guns that can garner at least 60 votes in the evenly split Senate.
The talks center on incremental changes to background checks and federal incentives for states to adopt red flag laws.
President Biden nearly upended those negotiations last week with a prime-time address to the nation in which he called for universal background checks and a ban on military-style rifles, among other things.
Such proposals have been thwarted in Congress for nearly two decades.
• Haris Alic can be reached at email@example.com.
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