By Geneva Sands - 12/18/12 03:06 PM EST
The Democratic senator, who is a member of the NRA, said the "toxic atmosphere" of Washington shouldn't prevent lawmakers from addressing gun violence in the wake of Friday's mass shooting in Connecticut.
Manchin has been a strong advocate of gun ownership rights and was endorsed by the National Rifle Association Political Victory in October with an "A" rating. On Monday he said that the mass shooting of young at a Connecticut elementary school has "changed the dialogue" on gun control.
The West Virginia lawmaker said he would continue to "fervently" protect the 2nd Amendment , while addressing ways to prevent a future massacre.
"I'm a proud [NRA] member and I will always be, but with that I'm also a responsible parent and a grandparent. I think we need to look at how we handle mental illness, all of this needs to be talked about, cultural violence, how have we gotten to where we are today?" he said.
Manchin lamented the state of Congress where legislators are "afraid to talk" to each other for fear of political backlash.
"You know it's a shame, in Washington, you know I've been here for two years as a U.S. senator, I've seen almost a guilt by association, people afraid to talk to other people to get a truly constructive dialogue, because they were afraid they'd be tainted or targeted," Manchin said.