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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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April 11th, 2013
05:59 PM ET

Sen. Manchin to Sandy Hook parents: 'I can do something'

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was noticeably moved by the Sandy Hook families he met Wednesday afternoon. He met with them just hours after unveiling a bipartisan bill alongside Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania that would extend background checks to guns bought online and at gun shows.

"I can do something," an emotional Manchin told the parents who lost children in the Sandy Hook attack.

"I look at them just with amazement. If I was one of those parents or grandparents, and something that horrific happened, what would you - what state of mind would you be in?" said Manchin.

" 'We're just asking, can you keep the guns out of the people's hands that shouldn't have guns?' " Manchin said the parents told him, " 'A simple background check on criminal and mental background check?' "

The NRA response to Manchin and Toomey's plan was swift. On Wednesday, the gun rights group released a statement, saying "The sad truth is that no background check would have prevented the tragedies in Newtown, Aurora or Tucson."

Manchin is a gun owner, a fact made famous in a political ad that features the West Virginia Democrat shooting a rifle. He also has an A rating from the NRA. He interpreted the NRA statement as a critique of state laws.

"The states haven't done their job - and the NRA has been absolutely dead accurate on that ... The DOJ has not basically made sure the NICS records were up to snuff," said Manchin.

But Manchin took offense at the opposition from Gun Owners of America. The gun rights group dubbed Manchin and Toomey's plan the “See a Shrink, Lose your Guns" plan.

Manchin called that an "outright lie."

"They're crazy. It's not true,"  said Manchin. "They must be doing it as a fund-raising campaign."

A lot of gun owners have told CNN that they are afraid that this bill will keep people who are allowed to have guns from having them, and will create a national registry, and then people will ultimately come and take their guns.

"What we're saying is, if you go to a gun store today ... you have to do a background check and that gun owner keeps that record.  And that's the only person," said Manchin, saying a registry would not be made.

"If you go to a gun show today, and you go to a dealer, a licensed dealer, they do the background check at a gun show.  You might go over to the next state, well, nothing is done. We're treating everybody the same," added the West Virginia senator.

Politically, gun control faces an uphill battle. Though the bipartisan plan earned enough votes to get to debate Thursday, asked if the bill will meet the hurdle of 60 votes to pass the senate, Manchin was uncertain.

"I sure hope so," he said. "We're working awful hard."

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