In early January 2013 I sent the following email to Representative McKinsey, Senator Manchin, and Senator Rockefeller of West Virginia:
As one of your represented constituents, I respectfully encourage you to vote against any legislation proposed by California Senator Diane Feinstein or others which would seek to impose further limitations upon American citizens and their second amendment protected right to bear arms.
Thank you for your consideration.
Kelly R. Martin
It was short, sweet, and most importantly given my usual verbose nature, to the point. The following is the nice bond paper response I got in reply from Senator Manchin (the only one of my representatives to reply so far).
Dear Mr. Martin,
Thank you for taking the time to contact me and to share your thoughts on the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.
As parents and grandparents, Gayle and I cannot begin to imagine the pain and grief the families must be going through. Like all West Virginians, we offer our thoughts and prayers that the families can find some peace and comfort within themselves, from each other, their communities, this nation and from God above.
Our condolences are not all we can offer, however. As your Senator, it is my obligation to look into all available options to prevent another unspeakable tragedy like the one that took 27 lives in Newtown, Connecticut.
One of the promises we make to our children is that they have a safe place to learn. I intend to keep that promise. The atmosphere in Washington has become so toxic in recent years that most people are afraid even to talk about the issues most important to our nation. Politics as usual and partisan bickering have no place when it comes to the need for a serious discussion about developing a reasonable, responsible approach to protect our children.
There is no single factor that caused the heartbreak at Sandy Hook Elementary School. This is not simply a gun issue. This tragedy stemmed from the failures of multiple systems and I promise to move past dialog and to take action to improve mental health treatment and to address our current culture where violence is accepted and even glorified.
Like many West Virginians, I am an avid sportsman, a proud and responsible gun owner, and a lifetime member of the NRA. In fact, I have received an A-rating from the NRA for my support of gun rights in the Senate. Also like many of you, however, I am a proud parent and grandparent and this tragedy has changed all of us. My words in recent days have not been an endorsement of an assault weapon ban but an endorsement of a constructive and open discussion on all possible causes of the unacceptable rise in mass shootings across the United States. In moving forward, everyone needs to be involved in the discussion, including my friends at the NRA, mental health experts, elected officials on both sides of the aisle, and the entertainment industry that daily glorifies unspeakable violence.
I know that families across West Virginia and across the United States join my family in offering our prayers to the families of the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School and to the entire community of Newtown. In these coming days, our words can offer little comfort. As your Senator, I will work with everyone involved, from President Obama and Senator Feinstein to the NRA, to find a way to ensure the safety of our children.
As always, please do not hesitate to contract my office if I can be of further assistance.
With warmest regards,
Joe Manchin III
United States Senator
A well written and sensitive response indeed. Now to let you a bit inside my mind as I “interpret” this politicalized response into what I feel the message they are sending me actually says.
Thank you lowly scum sucking Neanderthal gun toting voter. The poor children you evil bastard.
We love children, while you only love violence and your tools of violence. God is with us children lovers.
We love the little children, So we will look at all possible means to take or otherwise limit your guns.
We promise to protect the little children. Washington is a bad place full of evil Republicans who don’t want to take your guns. They need to be reasonable and let us take your guns.
As a sop to logic we will truthfully admit that guns didn’t kill those kids, a lunatic did, but since that is pretext enough we’ll claim guns cause people to become violent and take them away.
As a sop to the NRA who so nicely lined my coffers once to get me elected to the position of Governor, and were stupid enough to do it a second time when I ran for the Senate, the poor little children. We’ll let you keep your hunting rifles, and heck, we’ll even let you shoot on gun ranges still. Just let us strip all your self defense capabilities from your weapons first. Because bald face lie about statistics, when will we stop letting “gun violence” rule our country.
Remember the poor little children as I work with President Obama and Senator Feinstein to further reduce your rights in the name of the children we are robbing blind with the deficit.
As always feel free to waste your time voicing your opinion to us. Our staff gets a chuckle out of it.
Now admittedly I may be reading his message wrong, but can you come up with a different explanation for what “Uncle Joe Stalin” Manchin means with his response?
Update June 4, 2013: Senator Jay Rockefeller’s staff has finally caught up with e-mailing their form letter response to my January 2013 e-mail above. It is as follows:
Dear Mr. Martin,
Knowing of your interest in issues related to the Second Amendment and gun safety, I wanted to be in touch to update you on recent action in the Senate.
Making sure our children, families, and communities are safe from harm has always been one of my top priorities. The unspeakable crimes in places like Blacksburg, Newtown, Aurora, and Tucson have served to remind us of the terrible fact that American families lose loved ones every day as a result of gun violence.
Over the last several months, parents, educators, police officers, hunters, and elected leaders have worked hard to find common ground and come up with new solutions to solve the very real problem of gun violence. Too many lives have been taken from us too soon, and I believe strongly that we can do more to keep everyone safe while also protecting the important Second Amendment rights and traditions valued by West Virginians.
I believe we should consider ideas that have worked in the past as well as new ideas. I have been disappointed that some of my colleagues have not kept an open mind about solutions, but I’m hopeful that we still might be able to have honest conversations about next steps.
We should tackle all important aspects of gun violence – expanding mental health services, studying the impact of violent media on children, aggressively going after gun traffickers, reinstating previous laws on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and closing the loopholes that exist today in the background check process.
Two of those issues that I have long supported are better mental health support services in our communities and a better understanding of the impact of violent images on our youth. I have introduced bills on both of these issues this year.
Another measure that I have supported in the past and think we should reinstate today, is the law that was in effect in from 1994 to 2004 that prohibited new purchases of a limited number of assault weapons and high capacity magazines. It’s important to note that when the prohibition was in place no one had to give up any of the guns they owned, no gun owners were placed on any government registries, and thousands of guns were exempted.
Finally, the loopholes that exist in today’s background checks are something I believe we need to work together to address. Right now there are too many ways for violent criminals and the mentally ill to buy guns, especially at gun shows – and we have to fix that. This wouldn’t result in any type of registry. It would simply mean that those who want to harm others couldn’t avoid background checks by going to gun shows.
Thank you for sharing your views with me on these critical issues. I want you to know that I work hard every day to protect West Virginians’ rights, safety, and well being.
I wish you the very best.
With Warm Regards,