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COVID, Conspiracies, and Cannabis: RFK Jr. Does PorcFest

It was a hot Thursday morning at the PorcFest Pavilion in Lancaster, and as hundreds waited in the sun to see Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the air was thick with excitement.

And pot.

And the scents that come with the presence of a large number of dogs.

It also didn’t help that the central bathroom with showers, located near the Norse pagan spiritual village, was out of order. The adjacent port-a-potties were also shut. It was hoped that would all be fixed before Thursday night’s scheduled free couples shower event. 

This was the environment RFK Jr. stepped into when he showed up for Porcfest, the Free State Project’s annual gathering in the White Mountains. Once he took the stage, the air was full of something else familiar at FSP gatherings: Anti-government conspiracy theories.

Kennedy’s appearance at this libertarian event upset Democrats like New Hampshire state party chairman Ray Buckley, who sent the Democratic presidential candidate a plea not to participate.

“Free Staters are nearly universally Republican primary voters; they are highly unlikely to vote in the Democratic Primary,” Buckley wrote. “Free Staters view with hostility our candidates, elected officials, values, and our party as a whole.”

Given the hostility Kennedy’s candidacy has received from his fellow Democrats — including candidates and elected officials — that latter point may have been moot.

And if the state Democratic Party wasn’t thrilled by RFK Jr. showing up at PorcFest, not every Free Stater was happy about it, either. Kennedy’s security requirements involved a ban on firearms in the Pavilion, no small feat at an event that often appears to be a walking gun show.

Guns are everywhere at PorcFest. People brought their AR-15s to the dog meet-up (though there was a conspicuous lack of doggie clean-up bags). They wore rifles on slings when grilling burgers or buying tacos. And so, while Kennedy spoke, there was a small pro-gun protest about 100 yards away at the self-declared “grassy knoll.”

It was a joke that could be considered offensive to a Kennedy family member, except that RFK Jr. believes a government-backed conspiracy murdered his uncle.

And while Kennedy and the FSP crowd may have disagreed on guns, they found plenty of common ground on the overall premise that government is a major part of America’s problems.

In his speech, Kennedy rolled through a tale of CIA operations to create bioweapons, totalitarian attempts to subvert the Constitution, Microsoft founder Bill Gates working behind the scenes with Dr. Anthony Fauci to create a fake vaccine — with a couple of side trips through the dangers of the Patriot Act.

And, because he is Kennedy, there was a long discourse on environmental law administrative proceedings.

Kennedy’s appearance was largely a hit with the crowd. Suffering from spasmodic dysphonia, a rare voice disorder,  he delivered his stump speech like a raspy internal monologue that appeared to start in the middle of a conversation he was already having. He soon got to the FSP applause lines: Vaccine conspiracies, promises to free Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, and support for cryptocurrency.

The crowd quieted quickly, however, when Kennedy was asked about his support for the Second Amendment.

“I support a less than expansive view of the Second Amendment,” Kennedy confessed. “But, I’m not going to take away anyone’s guns as president of the United States.”

Jim Babb, one of the libertarians attending, said Kennedy’s views on gun rights are somewhat disturbing.

“I thought that was very weak. He talks about wanting to respect the Constitution, but I’m more interested in the fundamental right of self-defense,” Babb said. “He doesn’t really seem committed to human rights.”

Free Stater Tom Schnaidt first became interested in Kennedy at the start of the COVID pandemic and said he is still interested in his fight against the pharmaceutical industry. Schnaidt applauded Kennedy for telling the truth about his gun views, even if it did not appeal to the crowd.

“He’s running for president of the United States. New Hampshire is one of 50 states and one of just 13 that allows open carry,” Schnaidt said. “This audience would have sniffed him out if he got up there and made promises that were undeliverable.”

Tim Storrs is less concerned about Kennedy’s position on guns as he is that Kennedy did not address issues like the truth of the 9/11 attacks, the real origins of the Patriot Act, and how viruses are not real.

“The idea that viruses don’t exist whatsoever is not something that he admits very readily, and I don’t expect him to necessarily, and he’s already talked about this as something that divides the medical freedom community,” Storrs said.

Kennedy ended his talk by hailing the courage of New Hampshire Revolutionary War hero Gen. John Stark, who gave the Granite State its iconic “Live Free or Die” motto.

His wife, Molly Stark, viewed by some as equally courageous, might also have been worth a mention.

Molly Stark nursed her husband’s troops suffering from a smallpox outbreak during the war, turning the Stark home into a hospital. She petitioned New Hampshire for permission to inoculate her family from the dreaded disease but was denied.

Inoculation was considered too experimental and dangerous at the time.

Head of Rainbow Reload Finds Security in NH

One of the founders of Rainbow Reload, a New Hampshire-based group of LGBTQ people who teach others how to defend themselves with firearms, scoffs at the idea the organization is dangerous.

“All Rainbow Reload does is train, explain how guns work, and we make sure there is no political activity,” said Finn Sicaria, who uses the pronouns they/their. “We make sure it stays a comfortable space that everyone can access.”

It is part of the national movement “pink pistol” movement that can be traced back to an article at by Jonathan Rauch.

Angered by violence against the LGBT community, Rauch wrote, “The gay movement often portrays homosexuals as helpless victims. Here’s an alternative: Arm them… If it became widely known that homosexuals carry guns and know how to use them, not many bullets would need to be fired.”

Sicaria is a pseudonym used while they sort out their gender identity transition. The 33-year-old says they moved to southern New Hampshire several years ago to get away from violence directed at queer people and to get away from local governments that restrict the right to bear arms.

“I’m never leaving,” Sicaria said.

After being a victim of an assault while in college in New Jersey, Sicaria went through the extensive process of getting a license to carry a pistol in that state. Later, Sicaria moved to Boston, hoping to find a home in the city’s gay community. Because of the Bay State’s own restrictive gun laws, Sicaria had to get rid of their guns.

“I had disarmed to move to Massachusetts, thinking I was making myself safer,” Sicaria said.

That was not the case. Sicaria said they were unsafe in Boston. Sicaria was subject to harassment and abuse, like being targeted with milkshakes or being spat on.

“I had this fantasy in my head that the communities could be isolated,” Sicaria said. “I learned to move fast and get out of the way.”

Sicaria soon found themselves again the victim of violence and left the city to stay with friends in New Hampshire to recover. Here in the Granite State, Sicaria was once again able to legally carry a gun.

“New Hampshire allows me to be who I am and to defend myself,” Sicaria said.

In New Hampshire, Sicrari became part of a like-minded community of people who wanted to be able to defend themselves. However, many in the group were unhappy with their options. Too many pro-Second Amendment groups were actively political and leaned too far to the right for Sicaria’s circle.

Rainbow Reload started as a way to teach other LGBTQ people how to use guns safely while steering clear of politics.

“We train queer people; that’s all we do,” Sicaria said.

Many of the people who come to Rainbow Reload meetings and training have themselves been victims of hate-oriented violence, Sicaria said. There is a desire among New Hampshire LGBTQ people to be able to defend themselves and their community, as well as an appreciation for New Hampshire’s respect for personal liberty and gun ownership.

The training usually occurs at a friendly gun range or a site in the woods.

Sicaria is not apolitical. They are trained as an EMT and serves as a  volunteer street medic for protests. Sicaria is also part of a community defense group that provides security at protests. Those actions are separate from Rainbow Reload, Sicaria insisted.

The community defense team typically operates at protests in a way not to be noticed, or in ninja mode, Sicaria said.

“If we did our job right, you have no idea we were there at all,” Sicaria said.

New Hampshire has seen an uptick in hate crimes over the past several years. The white supremacist group NSC-131 has taken root in the Granite State among others known hate groups. Two members of NSC-131 were recently charged with civil violations by New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella. Christopher Hood and Leo Anthony Cullinan were allegedly part of the NSC 131 demonstration on a Route 1 overpass in Portsmouth last July, during which they displayed a sign that read “Keep New England White.”

Sicaria said it is time for LGBTQ people to realize they need to defend themselves against the active hate groups that are operating in New England and beyond.

“There are angry Nazis with plate carriers and AR-15s, the people who hate us, and they have been training for years,” Sicaria said.

Sicaria is concerned about what they see as the rising angry rhetoric directed at queer people, which they fear could lead to violence.

“It’s hard to describe how it felt watching it slowly creep on,” Sicaria said.

Sicaria has no patience for those in the LGBTQ community who engage in violence, like the killer in the recent school shooting in Nashville. In the incident, a transgender person killed three children and three adults. Sicaria is angry with those on the left who argued that the shooter was justified because of anti-transgender rhetoric and violence.

“The shooter is a literal piece of f***ing sh**. A broken monster,” Sicaria said. “We need to eliminate the idea that this is something we can blame on any sort of discrimination. This is somebody who was a monster.”

Stefany Shaheen Calls for Mass Gun Confiscation In Wake of Nashville School Shooting

Stefany Shaheen, the daughter of the state’s senior U.S. senator and widely viewed as a likely future Democratic candidate, is using her position on the Portsmouth Police Commission to call for gun confiscation as a “reasonable measure” to address gun violence.

In the wake of last week’s mass shooting at a Christian school in Nashville, Tenn., Shaheen penned an op-ed for the Portsmouth Herald bemoaning the fact that “we have not found a way to implement reasonable safety measures to keep first-graders from being shot in their classroom with automatic assault weapons that can unload 90 bullets in 10 seconds. 90 bullets in 10 seconds!”

However, she added, “There are reasonable measures we can take to stem the tide of these horrendous deaths.” Among them:

• Banning the sale of semi-automatic weapons.

• A mandatory assault weapon buyback program.

Shaheen, a children’s book author who chairs the city commission that oversees the police department, is staking out political ground by advocating a ban on the sale of most guns found in New Hampshire sporting goods stores. And gun confiscation — the “mandatory buyback” of privately owned weapons by the government — is such a political hot button that even aggressive anti-gun groups like Giffords and Everytown have declined to embrace it.

“The beauty of a democratic form of government is that WE [sic] the people have power,” she wrote. “Together, we can insist that those who earn our votes support safety in our schools and on our streets. We can end this vicious cycle of inaction driven by those who want us to disengage and give up.”

Shaheen declined to respond to questions from NH Journal regarding her specific policy proposals. She also declined to answer a question about whether politicians should accept campaign donations from gun manufacturers.

Shaheen’s mother, Sen. Jeane Shaheen, has taken at least $13,000 in direct campaign donations from New Hampshire-based gun maker Sig Sauer.

Sen. Shaheen’s press team also declined to respond to requests for comment. However, the senator has supported legislation banning the sale of some popular firearms, like the AR-15, as part of a ban on so-called “assault weapons.”

Kim Morin with the Women’s Defense League of New Hampshire said the younger Shaheen is simply out of touch. The Granite State has never had a school shooting. The only mass shooting incident in New Hampshire occurred 26 years ago when her mother was governor. Then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen did not enact new gun laws after Carl Drega shot and killed four people in Colebrook, including two New Hampshire state troopers.  

“Stefany Shaheen lives in one of the safest states in the country. She is blaming thousands of Granite Staters who lawfully own AR-15 style rifles for the actions of a psychopath,” Morin said. “Her suggestion of a ‘mandatory buyback program’ is nothing less than gun confiscation.”

Stefany Shaheen’s op-ed also called for a ban on high-capacity magazines, enacting “red flag” laws, and requiring a license for any gun purchase. Critics note, however, that part of her argument is based on counterfactual gun specs, such as her reference to “automatic assault weapons.”

In fact, the Nashville shooter did not have automatic weapons. Fully automatic weapons, also known as machine guns, are not typically available to Americans. They can be purchased, but only with a special permit and tax stamp. The weapons are also prohibitively expensive in most cases.

The semi-automatic type of firearms the Nashville shooter carried can only fire one bullet per trigger pull. It is highly unlikely the Nashville shooter, or any other shooter, can pull a trigger 90 times in 10 seconds. 

“They can only fire as fast as a person can pull the trigger,” Morin said. “People like (Stefany) Shaheen, who clearly knows nothing about firearms, shouldn’t be commenting on how firearms work and certainly shouldn’t be trying to create laws about them.”

Stefany Shaheen’s proposal also does nothing about handguns being the most commonly used weapons by mass shooters. Morin said Shaheen’s poor grasp of the facts and her extreme ideas like gun confiscation show how far out of mainstream she is from average Granite Staters.

“We don’t live in a third-world country ruled by authoritarian dictators. We live in one of the freest states in America. Shaheen, like her mother Jeanne, is completely out of touch with the people of New Hampshire, especially women,” Morin said.

After Years of Bucking National Trends, NH Murder Rate Rising — Fast

Early Sunday morning, Hooksett Police found the body of Jason Wirtz, stabbed in the neck and bleeding, on Main Street. Later that day, they arrested Dillon Sleeper, age 26, formerly of Franklin, and charged him with second-degree murder.

It was the 17th homicide in New Hampshire, a state that’s averaged 18 murders a year since 2017. And it’s still July.

New Hampshire is generally one of the safest states in the country when it comes to violent crime in general and homicide in particular, according to FBI records. It’s certain to blow past its average murder rate this year.

“We’ve responded to 14 separate callouts for investigations that have involved 16 different deceased individuals,” said Michael Garrity, director of communications for Attorney General John Formella said Friday. “These include matters where investigations involved allegations of self-defense/defense of another.”

Among the dead this year is a Hudson infant who died last month in what is now considered suspicious circumstances. The 15-day-old infant was taken from the parents’ home, at an apartment on Burns Hill Road in Hudson, to a local hospital in medical distress. While the case is deemed suspicious, the official cause and manner of death are still pending an autopsy.

Most suspicious deaths are resolved quickly by law enforcement. For example, earlier this month Timothy Hill, 72, of Winchester, was found shot in his home. Police soon arrested Keegan Duhaime, 26, of Winchester, and charged him with two counts of second-degree murder.

In some cases, the alleged killer is already dead by the time police arrive, as in the recent Alstead incident where authorities were called to a reported murder-suicide involving a man killing his domestic partner, then himself.

However, there are still unsolved cases in New Hampshire this year. The April murders of Concord couple Stephen and Djeswende Reid remain a mystery. Police recently announced a reward of $50,000 for information that leads to an arrest and indictment of whoever is responsible for their deaths.

According to law enforcement, the Reids left their home in the Alton Woods apartment complex on the afternoon of Monday, April 18, and went for a walk to the area of the Broken Ground Trails which are off Portsmouth Street in Concord. Family and friends did not see or hear from them. The Reids’ bodies were found in the early evening of April 21 in a wooded area near the Marsh Loop Trail.

Now, with a little more than five months left in the year, New Hampshire is on pace to beat the current five-year average of 18 homicides by the end of 2022.

The most recent FBI data runs through 2020, and it shows New Hampshire had one of the lowest homicide rates in the country that year with 12 total. In 2019, New Hampshire had a spike in homicide with 30. In 2018 there were 19 homicides, in 2017 there were 12, and in 2017 12 homicides were recorded.

While this year could reveal an uptick in murder, New Hampshire has historically seen a low ratio of violent crimes, as New Hampshire’s violent crime rate has dropped every year since 2017.

The state recorded the second-lowest violent crime rate in the country in 2020. According to the FBI data compiled from New Hampshire law enforcement agencies, the violent crime rate in New Hampshire was 195.7 incidents per 100,000 people in 2017. It fell to 146.4 per 100,000 in 2020.

Even as New Hampshire’s crime rate fell, it skyrocketed nationally. The FBI found a 30 percent spike in murders in 2020, and the violent crime rate went up to 398.5 incidents per 100,000 people.

President Joe Biden and his allies in Congress have proposed gun control laws to address the nation’s spike in violence. Last week the House Judiciary Committee passed a ban on rifles labeled “assault weapons” by politicians. The ban is backed by all four members of the New Hampshire congressional delegation.

However, Second Amendment advocates note the Granite State’s low crime rate is accompanied by one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the country–the second-highest number of guns per capita according to one survey. New Hampshire also makes it easy to buy guns. It’s also a relatively easy place to buy and own guns.

New Hampshire is the only New England state in the top 25 rankings for gun rights. Guns and Ammo rank the Granite State number 17 on its Best States for Gun Owners list, ahead of Alabama, South Carolina, and Florida. There are no bans on so-called “assault weapons” in New Hampshire.

Shaheen Calls Sununu ‘Cowardly’ On Guns. But Remember Carl Drega?

In the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen took to Twitter to accurse Gov. Chris Sununu of cowardice. But her own record as governor is problematic.

In response to a tweet from Sununu regarding the Robb Elementary School shooting, Shaheen wrote, “How can anyone be complacent with this status quo? Refusing to enact common-sense gun reforms is cowardly, irresponsible, and deadly.

“Buffalo. Uvalde. Tulsa. Las Vegas. Orlando. Newtown. Parkland. Aurora. Columbine,” Shaheen added. “The list goes on.”

But there is another town she could have added to the list: Colebrook, N.H.

In August 1997, Carl Drega shot and killed four people in Colebrook, including two New Hampshire State troopers in the state’s only mass shooting. 

Carl Drega

Described as a disgruntled loner who blamed local officials for his wife’s death from cancer, the 62-year-old Drega had repeatedly been involved in disputes over zoning regulations and property taxes with the town of Columbia, N.H. Years of frustration boiled over into deadly rage on August 19 when state troopers Les Lord and Scott Phillips pulled him over for excessive rust on his truck.

Drega stole the dead officers’ police car and drove to Colebrook District Court to hunt down Judge Vicki Bunnell, who was also a Columbia selectwoman and had a restraining order against him. Drega shot her eight times in the back. When Dennis Joos, editor of the Colebrook News and Sentinel, tried to wrestle the AR-15 away from him, Drega killed him, too.

Drega went to his house in Columbia and set it on fire. He was confronted by N.H. Fish and Game warden Wayne Saunders, who Drega shot and wounded. He then fled across the river to Vermont for a last stand, during which three more law enforcement officers were wounded before Drega was finally shot to death.

It was a shocking crime in a small community. A library in Stewartstown was later named for Joos in honor of his courage. Books have been written about the horrific events of that August day.

And who was governor in 1997? Democrat Jeanne Shaheen.

In the aftermath of New Hampshire’s only mass shooting, then-Gov. Shaheen didn’t sign any laws restricting gun ownership or making it more difficult to buy AR-15s. Indeed, Democrats have held the corner office for 19 of the 25 years since Drega’s rampage and New Hampshire still has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the nation. 

NHJournal repeatedly contacted Shaheen’s office for a comment about her gun control record, her accusation of cowardice against Gov. Sununu, and what she would do in response to the mass shooting in Texas. She declined to respond.

Associate Attorney General Jeff Strelzin, Director of the Public Protection Division, said the FBI defines mass shooting incidents as those with four victims, not including the shooter or shooters.

“The Congressional Research Service defines mass shootings as multiple, firearm, homicide incidents, involving four or more victims at one or more locations close to one another,” Strelzin said.

While Drega’s shooting is the only one to meet the FBI’s definition of a mass shooting, Strelzin said there are two other incidents in which three people were shot.

In July 2007, Michael Woodbury shot and killed three men in a store in Conway. In 2010, Ken Arsenault shot three people in Pittsburg. One victim later died.

Both of those shootings also occurred on the watch of Democratic Gov. John Lynch. During his record four terms, no significant gun restrictions were put into place.

Hassan’s contribution to gun control as governor was vetoing the constitutional carry bill that Sununu would go on to sign into law.

The Gifford Law Center, a non-profit dedicated to preventing gun violence, gives New Hampshire an F in gun control laws.

“New Hampshire lacks many basic gun safety protections and, in fact, has weakened its gun laws in recent years—state lawmakers must reverse this deadly trend,” the Giffords ranking states. “New Hampshire has not passed any meaningful gun safety laws in years, and recently enacted a law that allows people to carry loaded, hidden handguns in public without a background check or permit.”

But according to Jim Goulden, a Nashua defense attorney who specializes in gun crime cases, New Hampshire politicians who support gun control usually end up out of office.

“I don’t know of any New Hampshire politician who has pushed for greater gun control,” he said.

New Hampshire’s gun laws tend to focus on punishing people who use firearms in the commission of a crime, or who possess firearms while being legally prohibited from doing so, he said. Goulden said the results of New Hampshire’s laws are evident.

“If we’re going by crimes involving firearms, New Hampshire has very good gun control, we have very few gun crimes,” he said.

Last year, the FBI released crime statistics for 2020, finding a 30 percent surge in murders nationwide, but not in New Hampshire. According to the FBI’s data, there were 6.5 murders per 100,000 people nationally. In New Hampshire, it was 0.9 per 100,000 or 12 murders for all of 2020.

The 2020 statistic may be an anomaly. Michael Garrity, director of communication for the New Hampshire Department of Justice, said the state typically averages about 19 murders per year, and 2022 is following the trend.

“There have been 11 so far this year, so there has been no spike in homicides,” he said.

Goulden said no matter the gun laws anyone wants to propose, the only real change will happen when people start getting serious about addressing mental illness.

“Until people start taking personal responsibility for themselves and their own families, mental illness, always going to be an outlier,” he said.