Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, choked back tears at a meeting as he met with family members of the Sandy Hook shooting victims. Many of the Newtown family members have been lobbying in support of stricter gun control laws in Capital Hill as the Senate prepares to debate game-changing gun control legislation, and it’s clear that they’ve had an effect.
When asked, “What impact did these families, specifically their presence this week, have on your breakthrough?” Sen. Manchin replied, “Let me tell you.”
He then spent nearly a minute attempting to regain his composure as he struggled to hold back tears before finally answering, “I’m a parent. I’m a parent.” While his answer was short, it spoke volumes to the emotional impact that these families have had on politicians.
So much of an impact, in fact, that Sen. Manchin had a change of heart on the gun control debate. Manchin has a record as a proponent of gun rights and he hails from pro-gun state West Virginia. The family members of the Sandy Hook shooting moved Manchin to help the gun control bill.
Before the video was taken, Sen. Manchin had reached a deal with Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R, PA) to update the gun control bill with compromise amendments. The new language gave the bill a much-needed boost as it mustered the necessary votes to end a Republican-led filibuster.
Some gun control advocates have decried gun control advocates for parading Sandy Hook family members in front of the media. Mayors Against Illegal Guns released commercials with Sandy Hook family members tearfully requesting action and President Obama personally spoke with some of the survivors. Regardless of whether or not using these victims is a political low blow, Manchin’s change of heart proves just how effective the strategy has been. Sandy Hook initially sparked the flurry of gun control sentiment, and the families of the slain children have been helping to push the legislation ever since.
The only question that remains is if it will be enough. Will the compromises, swayed gun rights advocates, and the filibuster victory be enough to pass this landmark gun control legislation?