NRA member Sen. Manchin says Newtown shooting should open assault weapons debate

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, an "A" rated member of the NRA, on Monday questioned the availability of assault weapons and suggested Friday's shooting in Newtown, Conn. has opened up the issue for debate.

Manchin said past debates about assault weapons have been shut down over a fear of destroying Second Amendment rights. But the senator said last Friday's shooting changed all that. "The massacre of so many innocent children has changed—has changed America. We've never seen this happen," Manchin said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

Manchin issued criticism of assault weapons, saying, "I don't know anyone in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle. I don't know anybody that needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting. I mean, these are things that need to be talked about."

Manchin, who received an endorsement from the NRA's Political Victory Fund for his 2012 re-election race, is one of the most prominent gun rights advocates in the Senate to speak about assault weapons in the wake of the shooting.

The senator famously and literally shot a hole in the president's "cap and trade" climate bill in a 2010 special election campaign ad aired during his first election to Congress.