Joe Manchin III, the pro-gun-rights West Virginia senator who drew attention in 2010 after running a commercial that showed him firing a rifle at an environmental bill, said on Monday that “everything should be on the table” as gun control is debated in the coming weeks and months.
Mr. Manchin, a Democrat and an avid hunter with an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, indicated that he supported re-evaluating laws that permit people to have clips that hold dozens of rounds of ammunition and to own assault rifles.
“I don’t know anybody in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle,” Mr. Manchin said, speaking on the MSNBC program “Morning Joe.”
“I don’t know anybody who needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting. I mean, these are things that need to be talked about,” he added.
While Mr. Manchin stopped short of saying what, if any, changes to gun laws he would support, his words amounted to one of the strongest signals yet that in the aftermath of the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., longtime gun rights supporters are taking a more measured approach to Second Amendment issues.
Gun control has been something of a third rail for many lawmakers, including President Obama, who critics say has not pushed for any meaningful reforms. Any effort to rewrite gun laws in Congress would certainly be a complicated and difficult task.
But, as Mr. Manchin said on Monday, the Newtown shooting has caused many like him to pause and rethink the issue.
“Millions and millions of people are proud gun owners, and they do it responsibly,” he said. “Seeing the massacre of so many innocent children, it’s changed – it’s changed America. We’ve never seen this happen.”
The National Rifle Association’s political fund has praised Mr. Manchin for taking various steps to protect gun owners, like signing a law prohibiting the confiscating of guns during a state of emergency while he was governor of West Virginia.
In his comments on Monday, Mr. Manchin was careful to note that the dialogue would have to take place in a way that reassured the N.R.A. and others that their right to bear arms was not in jeopardy. He said he would be approaching the N.R.A. to discuss the issue soon.
“I’ll go over and sit down with them and say, ‘How can we take the dialogue to a different level?’” he said. “How can we sit down and make sure that we’re moving and not be afraid that someone’s going to attack our freedoms and our rights?”
Politicians, lobbyists and policy experts continued on Monday to discuss the prospect of new limitations on firearms, with stronger support and even some indications of softening opposition to gun control in the aftermath of the mass killing.
Joe Scarborough, the host of “Morning Joe” and a former Republican congressman from Florida who highlighted his support of gun rights, also made comments on the program calling for action from Washington on several fronts.
“The violence we see spreading from shopping malls in Oregon, to movie theaters in Colorado, to college campuses in Virginia, to elementary schools in Connecticut, is being spawned by the toxic view of a violent popular culture, a growing mental health crisis and the proliferation of combat-style weapons,” Mr. Scarborough said.
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who is about to leave Congress, was among those calling for restrictions on assault weapons, a position favored by many Democrats. He is also calling for a commission to look broadly at the problem of gun violence and its causes.
Several Democrats said they would like to reinstitute a ban on the sale of assault weapons, or make it harder for people with serious or dangerous mental health problems to obtain firearms.
Mr. Lieberman repeated his views that assault weapons “were weapons created by the U.S. military for use in war.”
“When it comes to mental health, this is complicated,” he continued. “We’ve got to find a way to create a society in which those closest to people in trouble, mentally, acknowledge that” and help them secure assistance.
As for violence in the entertainment and video game industry, which Mr. Lieberman has also said may contribute to a culture of violence, he said, “I think we really do have to reopen the conversation and go back and ask ourselves, ‘Is there more we can do?’”