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Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter - Time for Action

As I write this column, the news is covering still another shooting, this time on a college campus. We will learn who was involved, who was standing where when it happened, who witnessed it, who was hurt, who the hurt people’s friends and families are. Students—reportedly 10,000 students attend the college—will say how terrified they were. And then…the story of this shooting will be dropped from the news cycle, only to be replaced by another shooting story. And Americans will wonder why we can’t seem to stop the violence. Or can we?

When the children and teachers were executed in a mass murder at an elementary school, right before Christmas, while we were talking about love and faith and family and peace, everyone thought that this time, politicians would take action. It did seem for awhile that we had reached our breaking point, and that we would finally be ready to pass responsible gun legislation that would give us both the freedom to hunt and protect our families and the freedom to go about our daily lives without fear of being gunned down in still another act of violence. There was encouraging talk about passing legislation as quickly as possible, and President Obama did sign some Executive Orders with the families of the murdered six and seven year olds and the slain staff in the room.

The fight was already ugly, but that’s where it got uglier. The head of the National Rifle Association said that President Obama was “attacking firearms and ignoring children.” There was a sea of outrage that President Obama had children at the event. Children were at the site of the massacre—I think it is appropriate that children who knew it happened and wrote about it should be in the room when grownups say we are going to try to stop this from happening again to children, or anyone else. The NRA leadership also dragged the President’s own children into the fray, as they falsely warned that President Obama was going to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.

Some in Congress were upset at even the mildest suggestions, such as doctors asking if there are guns in the house so they can talk about safety issues involved when there are children in the residence. Doctors ask if somebody smokes around children. They talk about being safe and careful with candles and stoves, but apparently, they should not ask about a huge killer of children—guns.

It’s time to stop the fighting and work on the solutions here. It is time to stop bowing to special interests and yes, the money they bring to campaigns, and talk about how we are going to protect both the right to have guns for sport and for protection, and the right to be safe from gun violence.

The easiest step should be to require background checks for gun sales. This means gun sales involving most private sales also. The majority of Americans support this plan. We also need to make sure that critical information is available when there is a background check. Records right now are too often incomplete, and do not identify a buyer’s criminal history or a dangerous mental illness.

It is time to end high-capacity magazine sales. It used to be that citizens had a chance to get away from a shooter when he had to stop to reload. But with high-capacity magazines, the killer can just keep firing away a lot longer, murdering many more innocent folks. Hunters do not need to fire 30 rounds. Neither do citizens exercising their right to defend themselves. I support banning magazines holding more than ten rounds. This will help law enforcement and the public to disarm a mass shooter, and it will give people a better chance to escape a madman.

I support President Obama’s call to close loopholes in gun trafficking laws, and to beef up law enforcement in communities. Let’s also step up mental health services, and work together to encourage a reduction of violence in video games and television and movies. All of these ideas should be the easiest to enact. There is another step, an assault weapon ban, that will require more political debate, but these ideas listed here are common-sense ideas that should have no political test of courage attached to them. Can’t we at least get this done now? Let’s get it done now. It already has been a long and deadly wait.


Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter represents New Hampshire’s First District. She previously served the District from 2007-2011, and she was reelected in the November 2012 election. The Congresswoman is again serving on the House Armed Services Committee and the Natural Resources Committee.


An Open Letter to the NRA 

As the Chair of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee in the State of New Hampshire, I am writing to you to set the record straight regarding the statement posted on your website about HB330. You have been given misinformation (I prefer not to call anyone a liar) by your state NRA-ILA representative, John Hohenwarter. I do not appreciate his unprofessional behavior, which has been contrary and harmful to NRA’s reputation. 

HB 330 was carefully crafted to do one thing, to return to the people of New Hampshire their right to carry concealed without asking for or paying for the government’s permission to exercise a Constitutional right. This bill was vetted in the House of Representatives not once, but four times. 

There was a public hearing, and the people of New Hampshire came to express their feelings and opinions.  There were multiple public subcommittee meetings, which your State affiliate GO-NH and your representative Mr. Hohenwarter failed to attend. Many others did attend and voice their concerns and opinions, which were taken into consideration by the committee. 

The only communication with the subcommittee by GO-NH/Hohenwarter was via an e-mail which suggested the so-called “NRA amendment.”  This amendment was considered and rejected by the committee, in part because it was too extensive, proposed new gun control measures, instituted new criminal penalties, and added NICS checks on licenses. For those reasons and others it was felt the amendment should be offered as a bill of its own so it would go through the proper process of a public hearing and vetting.  HB330 was again heard in Executive Session, where the committee discusses the pros and cons of the bill, and finally it went before the whole House of Representatives for a vote of “ought to pass” or “inexpedient to legislate.”  The bill passed out of the House with a large margin of victory and was sent to the Senate. 

Just prior to the full vote of the House, the “NRA amendment” was again presented to us via communication from the Majority office, but it was rejected again for the same reasons listed above; this was done with the full support of leadership, who agreed an amendment such as this one should never simply be attached to a bill, but vetted in the public eye on its own merits. Mr. Hohenwarter was again told to offer it as a second-year bill, so that the proper process could be followed.  There are many in New Hampshire who would oppose new criminal penalties and question the mere addition of NICS checks as being ineffective to achieve a NICS-exempt carry license.

It is also likely your representative confused HB330 with another bill, HB536, which was retained in committee.  The NRA criticisms of HB330 are in fact the problems contained in HB536, not HB330.  I am not sure of Mr. Hohenwarter’s personal agenda, but it has clearly been obstructionist.  Furthermore, his unprofessional behavior is not what New Hampshire citizens deserve.


Representative Elaine Swinford

Chair of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee

Belknap – District 5