Nearly every seat was taken at the Logan County Commission office for a Town Hall Meeting featuring U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, who had been traveling through southern West Virginia over the past week.
Gilbert Mayor Vivian Livingood, Man Mayor Jim Blevins and Logan Mayor Serafino Nolletti, Delegates Rupie Phillips and Ted Tomblin, Logan County Commission President Danny Godby and Sen. Art Kirkendoll were among the elected officials in attendance. The eighth-grade West Virginia History class from Logan Middle School also came to hear what the senator had to say and was given an opportunity to ask questions.
Senator Manchin says it is a challenge to work in an environment where it doesn’t matter who you are or how right you are, the parties both look at each other as adversaries. He was not used to having that kind of working environment after coming from an atmosphere where people would work together.
“Coal is going to be depended upon for 35 percent of electricity produced until 2040,” the senator said and noted the importance of coal not only to southern West Virginia, but the rest of the country.
Gun control and the senator’s legislation was the focus for most attendees and the senator brought copies of the legislation for everyone to take with them and read. The discussion was lengthy and diverse, covering everything from access to guns without background checks to terrorist training films that instruct would-be terrorists to visit gun shows to acquire weapons.
Sen. Manchin is determined and very passionate about the legislation and says if it keeps even one gun out of the hands of someone who should not have access to buy a firearm it will be worth it.
“It’s worth a try,” Manchin said.
Manchin is moving forward on legislation to expand background checks for gun buyers, and make laws consistent between the current legal outlets and gun shows or buying guns on the internet or in another state.
Manchin stood his ground and fielded questions about the legislation from members of the audience who were just as passionate in their opinions about whether or not another piece of legislation would make any difference.
School safety is one of the reasons for promoting the legislation.
“I helped build or remodel hundreds of schools with hundreds of millions of your tax dollars and I never once had an architect, not one professional, came to me and said you better put bullet-proof windows on every first floor of every school. The boy at Sandy Hook blew out the window and reached his hand in. Not one parent from Sandy Hook said they want guns or second amendment rights taken away, they said the bill I’ve been working on probably wouldn’t have saved their children, but if it can save even one family from the tragedy of keeping a criminal or someone mentally deranged to have easily pick up a gun at a gun show, it would be worth it,” said Sen. Manchin.
He asked the students present whether they felt safe at school and whether they felt anything was different since Sandy Hook. The students said they could tell no difference.
Gun transactions between family members do not require background checks, and set procedures in place for Internet gun sales, and conduct background checks for vendors at gun shows who are not a federal firearm licenses dealer.
“If you go to a gun show and if you go to one table that has a federal firearm licensed dealer, you have to go through a background check. If you go online or out of state, by law you’ve got to have a background check. That process won’t change, “said Manchin, “But those who are not a commercial seller, those would be required to do background checks.”
An advocate for arming teachers and no more gun laws spoke up to say laws currently on the books are not enforced and out of 14,000 stopped by a background check, only 41 were prosecuted.
Manchin said some states do not put their sales into the system and the bill will have penalties and rewards for putting their records into the system to do the background checks. The Department of Justice is going to be charged with enforcement.
The senator reiterated the ability of the exchange or giving of guns to friends and family members would not change, and veterans with post traumatic stress syndrome will have access to a second evaluation within a 30-day time period to determine their readiness to have a firearm.
Shaun Adkins told the senator there are more issues than guns.
“I am very concerned about what is going on in our country today. I am concerned for my children and my grandkids. They are not going to grow up in the same kind of society you and I did, a free and secure society. Right there in Washington, D.C., you guys are spending money at an alarming rate. If somebody doesn’t do something to stop it, we will sink. We are sending billions of dollars to other countries, some who want to kill us, while we have children here in the U.S. going to bed hungry. That is totally not acceptable,” said Adkins, “We have one of the most anti-coal administrations in history in the White House right now and you helped put him in office. In 2008, you called him your partner.”
The senator said he didn’t know what Obama had in mind and he came from Illinois, where he was for coal, then changed once he was in the White House. He camoflauged what he intended to do.
Manchin touched on the subject of illegal aliens and spoke of his belief in giving a pathway to citizenship to the ones who are not criminals, pay their taxes or honorably serve our country. Criminals need to be deported.
“We have guns, drugs and illegal aliens are coming across our borders like it’s a super highway. There are soldiers stationed in 118 locations. I would bring most of them home. I would fence our border, I would take the billions of dollars spent on stimulus and put a border fence up and station two Marines every mile and nobody would come across it,” Adkins told him.
Senator Manchin told of hearing Admiral Mike Mullen who served Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff , say that the biggest problem facing the United States was its debt and that debt is what will bring it down.
Adkins said political capital is keeping all but a few of our representatives from doing anything about the debt and challenged Manchin to go back to Washington and beat the drum for reducing the debt.
Another critical issue facing this area is the abuse of prescription drugs. Help for anyone addicted is almost non-existent in this area, or even throughout the state.
Someone who had worked in health care for 13 years said West Virginia was leading the country in having the best mental health programs and facilities back in 1970-1980. Since then, the mental health budget has been cut tremendously, which limits the ability to restore health to those addicted and help the family regain a stable and normal life.
The senator agreed and said economy and jobs would clear up a lot of the problem. Without them, many turn to drugs. Changing hydrocodone from a Schedule III to a Schedule II drug will make it harder for people to get and make them more expensive. It does work, but some people will get them, even if they have to pay a higher price because they are addicted.
Someone spoke up to make a statement against using tax dollars to pay for abortions. Senator Manchin stated his position as being against abortion.
“I was raised in a family where life is sacred and begins at conception,” he said, “I do not favor any legislation that uses tax dollars to fund abortions.”
“If everybody works together, we can make it better. I know the easiest thing for me to do as a senator is just to vote no. Everybody would be perfectly happy. Don’t you think I should try to fix it? That’s what I am trying to do,” said Manchin, “I believe with my heart and soul that we built this country and I mean it when I say we, West Virginia has given more. When you look at the hard work, the coal that we’ve mined, the steel that we’ve made, look at the timber that’s been taken from here after the Civil War that rebuilt the country, this little state has probably given more than any other state for the quality of life that people enjoy today. In California, people just wail away at me. I tell them, you ought to get on your knees every night and say a prayer for the coal miners because they gave you the life you have in California today. People don’t realize where it all comes from,” then he continued, “I never thought I would be this old and be this homesick. I miss my state. I would rather be no place else than here. If I can stop one crazy person or criminal from having easy access to a gun, it’s worth it. I’m trying. Let’s try to make it better.”