As promised, newly-elected Speaker of the House Steve Shurtleff began the process of banning guns from the House chamber Wednesday morning with a 6-4 vote by the Rules Committee to amend house rules to prohibit the carrying of firearms in Representatives’ Hall. And, as is often the case, Democrats say they’re doing it “for the children.”
While he acknowledged the existing policy of allowing armed citizens and legislators into the House chamber has never created a problem, Shurtleff says he’s concerned about school kids. “In addition to being the place we make laws, it’s also a classroom. We have fourth graders coming in to view us in session and I think like any classroom we don’t want firearms present,” Shurtleff said.
Democratic State Rep. Lucy Weber took the argument a step farther during the Rules Committee debate. “There has been a chilling effect on willingness of schools to send their kids here,” Rep. Weber claimed.
Rep. Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack), leader of the GOP House minority, pushed back against that claim, saying it is “unfair and inaccurate to say that fourth graders have been in any way impacted by this. I have not seen any school grade that has felt inhibited about coming for a school tour,” the Union-Leader reports.
Hinch also objected to the ban in general, saying in a statement that “by removing this basic right, we are effectively making the chamber a gun-free zone and less safe environment for our colleagues.”
Since a GOP-controlled House first revoked the ban in 2011, House rules on the matter have changed along with changes in party control of the legislature. In addition to turning the House chamber into a gun-free zone, Shurtleff told NHPR that, if the gun ban went into effect, he would ask the Department of Safety to increase the State Police presence at House Chamber.
The response to the committee vote from Republicans and Second Amendment supporters was immediate. “The ink is barely dry on their oaths of office and they’re already trampling the constitution,” former state representative JR Hoell of the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition told NHJournal.
“This is the Democrats’ first shot fired in their battle against the Second Amendment. The most important aspect of this vote is that they are telling us they don’t trust their fellow legislators to have firearms. If that’s how they feel about their fellow politicians, how do you think they feel about the rest of us,” Hoell asked. “Their next step is to ban [the rights of] citizens.”
And a tweet from the NHGOP noted the irony of Speaker Shurteff taking away guns from law-abiding citizens then asking for more police protection: “Think about this logically. The
@NHDems want extra protection when they ban guns around them, conceding they keep people safe. Is Speaker Shurtleff going to ask for extra protection when he walks around town, too?”
Former Speaker Bill O’Brien, who led the GOP’s first successful effort to repeal the ban, told NHJournal that suggestions about children being too scared to come to the state house were laughable. “The number of children visiting the State House hasn’t changed at all over the years, with or without the ban. What we have here is an exercise in virtue signaling,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien agrees with his fellow Republicans who are concerned about anti-Second Amendment activism from the new Democratic majority in Concord. “Democratic legislators will be playing to their base, not serving the people of New Hampshire,” he told NHJournal. “They’ve got to show [anti-gun billionaires] Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer that all the money they sent up here wasn’t wasted.”
“My friends in the pro-2A [Second Amendment] community are telling me that, from their perspective, nothing the Democrats might try next would surprise them.”