WASHINGTON -- Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) may blame the National Rifle Association for the failure of his background check legislation, but he has no plan to leave the group anytime soon.
"Why would I quit when I'm trying to change from within?" he said in response to a question from The Huffington Post at a breakfast discussion on Friday, sponsored by centrist think tank Third Way.
The NRA has for decades been the loudest, most aggressive and best-funded lobbying group working to block gun control legislation. The organization opposed the amendment strengthening and expanding background checks for gun sales that was worked out by Manchin and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). It decided to include the vote on its scorecard ranking lawmakers on whether they support gun rights.
Manchin has said that the NRA's decision to score the vote was the main reason his compromise amendment on background checks failed on Wednesday. Without it, he argued, 70 senators -- well above the 60-vote threshold needed -- would have supported it.
The senator is a "life member" of the NRA. He argued on Friday that he and the vast majority of gun owners who support background checks can't just give up on the group; they need to keep pushing it to change.
"They're not going to run me off," he said.
To underscore his point, he pulled his membership card out of his wallet and showed it to The Huffington Post.
"I'm going to say there are more people like me who carry this card, and they're proud to have a card saying they support Second Amendment rights, who enjoy the rights I have as a United States citizen," he said. "I just want my other fellow members to know what we're trying to do. That brings credibility to our cause."
View Manchin's membership card:
"It's easy to quit," Manchin added. "There are two things that are easy to do in this town. Vote no and quit. Think about it. I can vote no and not have to explain to anybody. I can go home. Everybody says, I'm glad you voted that way because I didn't like it either. You follow me? It's the easiest vote I can take up here. But when the facts are supported by what we're doing, I've got to be ready to put it on the line."
Another prominent member of the NRA, Adolphus Busch IV, heir to the Busch family brewing fortune, decided to resign his membership on Thursday.
"The NRA I see today has undermined the values upon which it was established," he wrote in a letter to NRA President David Keene. "Your current strategic focus clearly places priority on the needs of gun and ammunition manufacturers while disregarding the opinions of your 4 million individual members."
"We disagree with his characterization, but we wish him all the best," responded NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam.
Pro-gun control groups are already trying to figure out how to turn this week's loss into a win, plotting how to kick out senators who voted against background checks and support those who voted for them.
Manchin, however, may not join in all these efforts. He said on Friday that he would not be campaigning against his fellow senators.
"I will not raise money or work against any colleague, whether I like them or not, whether they're Democrat or Republican," he said. "I am not going to be in an atmosphere in which I'm going to add to the toxicity. It's just wrong."
Also on HuffPost:
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)
"I wish to God she had had an m-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out ... and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said of slain principal Dawn Hochsprung on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/louie-gohmert-guns_n_2311379.html"><em>Fox News Sunday</em></a>. He argued that shooters often choose schools because they know people will be unarmed.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)
"If people were armed, not just a police officer, but other school officials that were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would be an opportunity to stop an individual trying to get into the school," he <a href="http://www.wtop.com/610/3162096/Gov-Is-it-time-to-arm-school-officials">told WTOP's "Ask the Governor" show</a> Tuesday, warning that Washington may respond to such a policy with a "knee-jerk reaction."
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) & State Sen. Frank Niceley (R)
Gov. Haslam says he will consider a Tennessee plan to secretly arm and train some teachers, <a href="http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/12/tennessee-armed-teachers.php">TPM reports</a>. The legislation will be introduced by State Sen. Frank Niceley (R) next month. "Say some madman comes in. The first person he would probably try to take out was the resource officer. But if he doesn’t know which teacher has training, then he wouldn’t know which one had [a gun]," Niceley told TPM. "These guys are obviously cowards anyway and if someone starts shooting back, they’re going to take cover, maybe go ahead and commit suicide like most of them have."
Oklahoma State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) & State Sen. Ralph Shortey (R)
State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) <a href="http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=336&articleid=20121217_336_0_OKLAHO168827">told the Tulsa World</a> he plans to file legislation that would bring guns into schools, calling their absence "irresponsible." “It is incredibly irresponsible to leave our schools undefended – to allow mad men to kill dozens of innocents when we have a very simple solution available to us to prevent it," he said. "I’ve been considering this proposal for a long time. In light of the savagery on display in Connecticut, I believe it’s an idea whose time has come." Sen. Ralph Shortey (R) told the Tulsa World that teachers should carry concealed weapons at school events. "Allowing teachers and administrators with concealed-carry permits the ability to have weapons at school events would provide both a measure of security for students and a deterrent against attackers," he said.
Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R)
Baxley, who once sponsored Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, <a href="http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2012/12/17/florida-legislator-allow-guns-in-schools/">told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune </a>that keeping guns out of schools makes them a target for attacks. “We need to be more realistic at looking at this policy," he said. "In our zealousness to protect people from harm we’ve created all these gun-free zones and what we’ve inadvertently done is we’ve made them a target. A helpless target is exactly what a deranged person is looking for where they cannot be stopped.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)
At a Tea Party event Monday night, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/rick-perry-guns-in-schools_n_2322185.html">Perry praised a Texas school system that allows some staff to carry concealed weapons to work</a> and encouraged local school districts to make their own policies.
Minnesota State Rep. Tony Cornish (R)
Cornish <a href="http://www.kdlt.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22736&Itemid=57">plans to introduce legislation that would allow teachers to arm themselves</a>, according to the AP.
Oregon State Rep. Dennis Richardson (R)
In an email <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/oregon-state-rep-dennis-richardson-teacher-guns-stopped-connecticut-shooting_n_2317444.html?ir=Education">obtained by Gawker</a> and excerpted below, Richardson tells three superintendents that he could have saved lives had he been armed and in Sandy Hook on Friday: <blockquote>If I had been a teacher or the principal at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and if the school district did not preclude me from having access to a firearm, either by concealed carry or locked in my desk, most of the murdered children would still be alive, and the gunman would still be dead, and not by suicide. ... [O]ur children's safety depends on having a number of well-trained school employees on every campus who are prepared to defend our children and save their lives?</blockquote>
Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett
"And I'm not so sure -- and I'm sure I'll get mail for this -- I'm not so sure I wouldn't want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing," Bennett, who served as education secretary under Ronald Reagan, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/bill-bennett-education-secretary-connecticut-shooting_n_2311774.html">told <em>Meet the Press</em> Sunday</a>. "The principal lunged at this guy. The school psychologist lunged at the guy. It has to be someone who's trained, responsible. But, my god, if you can prevent this kind of thing, I think you ought to."