1/3/2013 - The country and the world were rocked when news broke of the horrific shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December. Even as news organizations were still rushing to verify details on the day of the incident, many politicians and officials were calling for gun-control measures.
The president has promised action, but without specifics. Some reports surfaced nationally and locally indicating gun sales have spiked already, presumably with people fearing the government is soon to crack down dramatically with gun control measures. The National Rifle Association wants an armed guard at every school in America, though no suggestions on who will pay for that.
A USA Today/Gallup Poll released last week reported that 51 percent of people nationally do not support a ban on assault weapons, while 58 percent of people do support general stricter gun control measures.
Some see gun control measures as knee-jerk reactions to the tragedy that don’t necessarily address the whole problem. Former Sen. Judd Gregg, speaking to WMUR’s James Pindell last month, mentioned violent video games and a culture that doesn’t strongly distinguish between right and wrong.
One thing is clear: The Connecticut tragedy has thrust guns into the forefront in New Hampshire at a time when Democrats and Republicans appeared poised and content to tackle the state budget, and maybe even do so with some form of bipartisanship. Maybe that will happen, but any discussion on gun control is bound to be hyper-partisan.
In New Hampshire, the newly elected House of Representatives set about reinstating a gun ban at the Statehouse that the previous Legislature repealed in its very first move two years ago. The House Rules Committee voted for repeal last week. The whole House will take up the issue when it convenes this month.
“Obviously, they were thinking about removing guns even before what happened in Connecticut,” said Arnie Arnesen, a liberal-leaning pundit and radio host.
Democrats successfully painted the New Hampshire Legislature, particularly the House, as extremist during this past election on a variety of fronts. The strategy worked, with Democrats taking a majority, after being down by a nearly three-to-one margin. While the Connecticut tragedy has spurred the gun-control issue to the front burner, Arnesen said guns were an issue during the past two years anyway.
“They already had the idea that there needed to be some limits and some moderation … and appropriateness and location. All of these things matter,” Arnesen said. “I think this Legislature wants to role model behavior, as opposed to showing that in every setting you need to be packing heat.”
Arnesen mentioned the Legislature enacting the stand-your-ground law, which essentially allows people to use deadly force if they feel they are being threatened, last year over then-Gov. John Lynch’s veto, and despite law enforcement’s lack of support for the law. She recalled that the House’s first move was to repeal the gun ban in the Statehouse, and that one House member reportedly dropped his gun in the middle of a hearing on abortion. Arnesen said the public took notice, as did incoming legislators.
“All of those things are part of why Republicans lost [in November],” Arnesen said. “Guns were part of the reason why.”
Nationally, gun-control advocates have certainly used the Connecticut shooting as a rallying cry, particularly in hopes of reinstating a ban on assault rifles. So far, while Democrats and some Republicans in New Hampshire have called for more gun control, it’s still too early to know whether those calls will turn into proposed legislation or not. Arnesen said she figured the legislature would revisit the stand-your-ground law.
Gov. Maggie Hassan has indicated she’s willing to look at the issue of assault weapons.
“We must always be looking for ways to keep New Hampshire’s children safe from harm,” Hassan said in a statement following the Connecticut shooting. “We owe it to those we’ve lost to come together and determine what can be done to make our communities safer and better, including improving our mental health system and addressing the proliferation of deadly assault weapons.”