PARKERSBURG - Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and President Barack Obama Tuesday afternoon spoke to each other about the mass killing at Newtown, Conn.
Manchin said he and Obama agreed everyone must work together to keep children safe.
"I believe that we must have a dialogue and bring parties from all sides to the table. I know my friends at the (National Rifle Association) and those who support our Second Amendment rights will participate because I know that their hearts are aching for the families in Newtown, just like all Americans," Manchin said in a statement released Tuesday.
"To have a productive dialogue, we also need to address a number of critical issues, including our mental health system, safety in our schools and a media and entertainment culture that glorifies unspeakable violence," Manchin said.
"What I have learned since coming to Washington is that there are some who will vilify you for being open to a conversation with anyone you might not agree with," he said. "That's wrong - as Americans, we all need to sit down and have a serious, adult conversation about the best actions to move forward. The deaths of these children demand that each and every one of us in Washington and the United States be willing to talk with each other."
A man armed with semi-automatic weapons Friday morning killed 20 children, six school teachers, his mother and himself at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Manchin was the first lawmaker backed by the National Rifle Association, which has not commented, to publicly discuss stricter restrictions to prevent gun violence. He first appeared on morning new shows when he said "everything should be on the table."
However, Manchin on Monday humiliated himself and the state, West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lowe said.
"Joe Manchin's classless timing reveals both how insensitive and opportunistic he is," Lowe said. "How dare Sen. Manchin use a horrible situation to gain favor with liberal Washington insiders."
Manchin used the tragedy in Newtown, "to advance a disingenuous political career," Lowe said. The party won't talk about it while the funerals were being planned, he said.
"We strongly urge Sen. Manchin to retract his comments, consider the needs and emotions of the families involved and leave politics for another time," Lowe said. "A national discussion on preventing such catastrophes should and will take place later. Announcing such a position is cold, heartless, callous and embarrassing for West Virginia."
In other comments, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., called for stronger anti-gun violence laws, better access to mental health care and oversight of how much violence young children see. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said "the circumstances of this tragedy are so horrible that it demands aggressive action." Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., she was concerned how someone like the gunman was able to get such weapons.
Rockefeller supports the reinstatement of an assault weapons ban.
"The causes of violence in America are bigger and broader than just firearms," Rahall said. "I want to hear from all sides before the Congress moves forward, so we can move forward together. Let us act deliberately, but, for the sake of too many already lost, let us act."
Legislators should facilitate discussion regardless of political positions, Capito said.
"As a mother of three and grandmother to one, I certainly have serious concerns as to how someone capable of such mass murder was able to get his hands on an assault weapon and murder 26 innocent people," Capito said. "This is a time to reflect on everything that may have contributed to this shooting, from gun laws to the level of violence in the media to how we address mental illness in this country."
Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said he and his wife, Marty, are praying for the families.
"This tragedy is another reminder of the brevity of life and how precious our family members and loved ones are to each of us," he said.