Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) pledged to always defend West Virginia. To that end, in an infamous 2010 campaign ad, the good senator (then governor) loaded up his rifle and shot a hole in the already-dead cap-and-trade bill.

In Manchin’s mind, that’s defending West Virginia — halting policies that would demand coal companies incur the costs of their pollution. And what better visual metaphor than the gun? Blam. Shot dead.

But Manchin’s had a change of heart. Now, it seems, he sees the error in that ad. No, not the part about how he was arguing against a policy that held coal to account. No, now Manchin thinks we need more limits on guns.

From Politico:

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — who has an “A” rating from the NRA and is a lifetime member of the pro-gun rights group — said Monday that it was time to “move beyond rhetoric” on gun control.

“I just came with my family from deer hunting,” Manchin said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I’ve never had more than three shells in a clip. Sometimes you don’t get more than one shot anyway at a deer. It’s common sense. It’s time to move beyond rhetoric. We need to sit down and have a common-sense discussion and move in a reasonable way.” …

“I don’t know anyone in the hunting or sporting arena that goes out with an assault rifle,” he said. “I don’t know anybody that needs 30 rounds in the clip to go hunting. I mean, these are things that need to be talked about.”

These are things that need to be talked about. With the memory of dead first-graders all too fresh in mind, we need to talk about how unchecked gun ownership, the unlimited ability to own weapons and ammunition, is a threat to public health.

Meanwhile, coal killed some 13,000 people in the U.S. in 2010 — and there will be uncountable future deaths resulting from the carbon dioxide that coal leaves in the atmosphere.

Manchin is right about revisiting gun laws, of course. But one can’t help but wonder what evidence he’ll need before he sees that casually shooting anti-pollution legislation was a misjudgment in more than one way.