By Justin Sink
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Thursday that he was working on a bill with Senate colleagues and the National Rifle Association (NRA) that would implement universal background checks, a major component of President Obama's proposed gun-control reforms.
Manchin, a member of the NRA, had not previously endorsed any specific measures to address gun violence.
"I’m working on a bill right now with other senators — Democrats and Republicans — we’re trying to get it, and looking at a background check that basically says that if you’re going to be a gun owner, you should be able to pass a background check, to be able to get [universal background checks]," Manchin told Metro News radio's "Talkline," in an interview reported by The Washington Post.
"With exceptions. The exceptions are: Families, immediate family members, some sporting events that you’re going to — that if you’re just going to be using them at the sporting events. So we’re looking and talking to people with expertise. I’m working with the NRA, to be honest with you, and talking to them," he said.
The NRA has been vocal in opposing the president's call for new gun controls, arguing that Obama has attempted to exploit the mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school to limit Second Amendment rights. In remarks earlier this week, NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre accused the president of wanting to put "every private personal firearms transaction right under the thumb of the federal government."
Later Thursday, a spokesman for the NRA said that while the group was working with members of Congress to "address the problems with the background check system," the group would not support expanding background checks to include private transfers.
"If Sen. Manchin supports putting private transfers between law-abiding citizens under the thumb of the Obama-Holder justice department, we will vigorously oppose those efforts," said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam.
Arulanandam said the gun rights group believed "what Congress needs to do is improve and not expand the system" to better prevent those suffering from mental illness from obtaining weapons.
In the radio interview, Manchin called background checks for private dealers — who are exempted by the so-called gun-show loophole — "common sense."
"Why would a legitimate gun retail shop have to go through that, but then the unfair advantage for someone at a gun show doesn’t?" Manchin asked.
Earlier Thursday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced an updated assault-weapons ban in the Senate that would ban the sale and manufacture of more than 150 types of semi-automatic weapons with military-style features. The bill would also ban magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Manchin has previously said that he does not think hunters need assault rifles, but has not explicitly said whether he would support Feinstein's bill.
--This report was updated at 1:55 p.m.