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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.

NH School Safety Fund Nearly Out of Cash

As the nation reels from another school shooting, New Hampshire’s fund to improve security in public school buildings is nearly empty. 

The Public School Infrastructure fund spent close to $30 million since its inception in 2018. While there is a little more than $2 million left in it, no more grant applications are being accepted and any major reinvestment is yet to be formally approved.

That may change as the Public School Infrastructure Commission is set to meet next week for the first time since 2020 to decide on possibly continuing the program.

“New Hampshire has been quietly funding school building security upgrades for years, at the state and local levels, and we’ve made some real progress. But there’s a lot left to do,” said Drew Cline, chair of the state Board of Education.

The Public School Infrastructure Commission approved hundreds of grants to schools to pay for things like improved security cameras, stinger doors and windows, and other facilities improvements to make schools more secure. The fund was created as part of Gov. Chris Sununu’s efforts to make schools safer following the Parkland, Fla. shooting when 17 people were killed by a lone gunman who entered the school building.

Sununu put together a task force to study school safety issues. It found many old buildings where Granite State children learn are outdated when it comes to basic life-safety features. The report also found a need to create more secure entries at the schools so staff can control who gets in and who stays out.

“Facilities upgrades focus on controlling access to the school, identifying the people in the school, and slowing the progress of an assailant while help arrives. It is important to note that creating a more secure school has benefits beyond the physical safety of staff and students. Research shows that students have a fundamental need to feel safe in school, and they derive that feeling in part by feeling physically protected from threats. In this way, a mental health benefit is derived from increasing school security,” the task force report states.

Sununu told NH Journal he wants to see more money put toward making schools safer.

“From our historic school safety task force report to our first-of-its-kind $30 million fund to help every school strengthen safety in their schools — ensuring kids can be safe in school has been a priority for years, and we are committed to making additional investments in order to keep our children safe,” Sununu said.

It’s not “mission accomplished” yet. New Hampshire schools continue working on their safety plans and districts make regular updates to the state.

“You simply cannot put a price on a life, whether that is a child or an educator,” said Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut. “School districts have made great strides to produce safe and secure buildings, expand preparedness resources, implement new technologies and offer training – all to ensure that.”

Schools are required to submit Emergency Operations Plans to the state for review, and Edelblut said that has been part of the plan to enhance security and safety in New Hampshire schools.

“Safety is neither reactionary nor an afterthought in New Hampshire and keeping our children safe is the absolute number one priority,” Edelblut said.

Details are still emerging from the Robb Elementary School shooting, where a lone gunman armed with an AR-15 rifle shot dozens of students, killing 19 children and two teachers. There have been conflicting reports about the initial response, but it appears he was able to barricade himself in the school building for close to an hour as heavily armed police stood outside the building.

The political debate after the shooting is following the familiar script, with Democrats calling for more gun control and ignoring solutions to the terrifying issue.

The Florida commission that investigated the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School recommended some teachers be allowed to carry firearms during the school day, an idea that U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas (D-Manchester) mocked when it was broached after the Parkland shooting.

“I can’t think of a more ridiculous idea than what’s been pushed by the Trump administration and Betsy DeVos to use federal dollars to arm teachers,” Pappas said.

Former Chief Justice John Broderick, who served on the task force, said that while New Hampshire schools have become safer over the last few years, the real danger is being ignored.

“The problem with school shootings is almost always social-emotional health,” Broderick said.

Broderick is a mental health advocate and has talked to students at hundreds of middle schools and high schools about mental health. He said a shockingly high number of students deal with depressing and suicidal ideation.

“We invest a lot of money, in every state in the country, in failure,” he said. “I mean we spend a lot of money building bigger jails and prisons, and usually by the time people get there a lot of damage has been done.”

Judge Rejects Lawsuit Blaming Derry Gun Store For Cop Shooting

Superior Court Judge David Ruoff ruled against two Manchester police officers injured in a 2016 shooting in a lawsuit the officers brought against a Derry gun store.

“This is absolutely a great day for gun rights in New Hampshire,” said Sean List, the attorney for Chester Arms in Derry.

Manchester officers Ryan Hardy and Matthew O’Connor were reportedly shot by Ian Macpherson in May 2016 when they tried to question him about a gas station armed robbery. Hardy was shot in the face and torso; O’Connor was treated for a gunshot wound to the leg, according to the Associated Press. Both officers have since returned to active duty.

The officers brought a lawsuit against Chester Arms, the store where MacPherson bought his .40 caliber Smith and Wesson. They also sued the New Hampshire Department of Safety, claiming that the mentally ill MacPherson, who has a history of domestic violence, should never have been sold the gun in the first place.

Ruoff ruled in a summary judgment order that O’Connor and Hardy would not have prevailed if the case had gone to trial because both the store and the Department of Safety followed current law. List said it is possible the pair will appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, but he’s unconcerned about the prospect.

“We feel very confident that if it is appealed, the Supreme Court will find judge Ruoff’s order is correct,” List said.

Stephen Gutowski, editor of The Reload, the nation’s leading journal on gun issues, tells NHJournal he sees the Chester Arms case in a larger, national context.

“This case is part of a broader decades-long strategy by gun-control advocates to hold gun makers and retailers liable for gun crimes they aren’t directly implicated in. It’s not surprising they fell short here. However, the loss is unlikely to deter advocates from pursuing more cases like this moving forward,” Gutowski said.

Representatives for the Manchester Police Department declined to comment, and Mayor Joyce Craig’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Mark Morrissette, the attorney representing O’Conner and Hardy, told NHPR he wanted the case to force New Hampshire to start following federal law on background checks.

MacPherson ended up pleading not guilty by reason of insanity in 2018. He was ordered to serve five years in the New Hampshire State Psychiatric Hospital.

MacPherson was initially unable to purchase the gun when he went to Chester Arms in March 2016. The store employee contacted the state’s “gun check line,” run by the Department of Safety, for a background check on him. The gun line told the store that MacPherson’s status was “delayed” for further investigation, according to Ruoff’s order.

The gun line investigation found MacPherson’s domestic violence cases did not trigger any legal prohibition that would prevent him from owning a firearm. The gun line employees were also unable to verify his mental health condition, according to the order.

While that information was given to the Department of Safety and the Gun Line, the state never told Chester Arms not to sell MacPherson the gun.

The gun line investigation found the relationships to the victims in MacPherson’s domestic violence cases, those convictions did meet the legal definition of a violation that would prevent him from owning a firearm. The gun line employees were also unable to verify his mental health condition, according to the order.

The store followed the law by waiting three business days to hear back from the gun line. After not being contacted by the state, the store allowed MacPherson to buy the gun, according to Ruoff’s order. MacPherson’s gun line status continued to stay “delayed” for the weeks he owned the gun and did not change until after he shot the officers.

“The gun line continued the delay status on Mr. MacPherson’s transaction until the day he was indicted for the shooting, at which point the gun line changed the status to denied,” Ruoff wrote. 

List said gun dealers have immunity when they sell guns so long as they do not commit felonies during the course of an individual gun sale. 

Morrissette told NHPR that even though the store and the Department of Safety followed the rules, the laws should not allow someone like MacPherson to purchase a gun. The lawsuit wanted to have the laws protecting dealers ruled unconstitutional.

“It is not an effort to undermine the Second Amendment. There are laws in place that limit the purchase or possession of weapons, or at least to have someone look at this in a deliberate fashion to make sure that people are not unreasonably harmed,” Morrissette said. “The laws were there. The guidelines were there and they should be looked at. I think at the end of the day, in this case, Mr. MacPherson was a tormented person without overstating it in any way. And to believe that he was rightly given a weapon just runs counter to common sense and it runs counter to the law.”

Ruoff found that the laws protecting Chester Arms serve to protect the right to bear arms. 

NH Democrats Unified in Vote to Ban Guns from House Chamber

On their first day in session, New Hampshire House Democrats voted in lockstep to ban members from bringing “deadly weapons”–aka “firearms”– into the House chamber, overturning a pro-gun policy passed by a GOP majority four years ago. While pro-2A protesters filled the gallery and Republicans like Rep. Al Baldasaro (R-Londonderry) gave fiery speeches from the floor, Democrats said little, often declining to even answer questions.  Instead, they let their votes do the talking.

Democrats voted 220 to 163 for the gun ban, with the support of virtually every Democrat in attendance. (The House has a 233/167 split.)   An earlier motion to table the rule change failed by a nearly-identical margin, 221-164, with just three Democrats (Jeff Goley, Mark King and Peter Leishman) voting with the GOP to set the measure aside.

“This body has committed a grievous error that violates the constitutional rights of members of this historic body,” House Minority Leader Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) said from the floor.

“This is simply a matter of public safety,” House Majority Leader Doug Ley (D-Jaffrey) said in a statement after the vote. “Allowing lawmakers and members of the public to bring their guns to the State House clearing increases the potential for an avertable tragic event. The amendment passed today restores common sense to our practices in the legislature.”

Perhaps more telling was this tweet from NH Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley several hours before the vote was even taken:

The outcome of the vote was hardly a surprise, but Buckley’s confidence is worth noting.  Holding virtually the entire caucus on an issue like gun rights–which are relatively popular in some of the traditionally-GOP seats Democrats picked up in November’s blue wave–is a sign of party unity that should concern the NHGOP.   Particularly given their own failure to unify behind several of Gov. Chris Sununu’s key issues when they had the majority last year, like fighting internet sales taxes and vetoing subsidies to biomass.

“But remember, Republicans were united today, too,” Stephen Stepanek told NHJournal after the vote. “We stuck together as a block, something we’ve got to continue to do in 2019.”  Stepanek, who is the front-runner to become the next chairman of the NHGOP, acknowledges that Republicans didn’t come through for Gov. Sununu and their own party last year.

“But I believe Republican legislators will stick together this session,” Stepanek said. “They have to. We need to stay together so voters can see the differences between Republicans and Democrats, so they can see that Democrats are chipping away at our basic rights, like the right to keep and bear arms.” Stepanek, a former House member himselfe, said that if elected chairman, he would use his position to promote party unity among the notoriously unruly members of the House GOP.

“If Republicans stick together, the Democrats will give us issues to run on –and win back the legislature with–in 2020,” Stepanek said. “Democrats are going to do stupid things.  They can’t help themselves.”

But is keeping legislators from carrying guns on the House floor really one of those “stupid things?” Do New Hampshire voters, who tell pollsters they support gun control measures like banning so-called “assault weapons” and limiting the size of gun magazines, really care about the right to legislate while armed?

“Anyone who says ‘I’m pro-Second-Amendment, but…’ isn’t really pro-2A,” a protester named Scott told NHJournal outside the House chamber. He declined to give his last name, was wearing a handgun on his belt a waved a sign reading “Ban Idiots, Not Guns.”

According to Joe Sweeney, spokesperson for the NHGOP, the party highlighted Wednesday’s vote to alert gun-rights advocates about the Democrats’ larger anti-gun agenda for the coming session.

“It’s a slippery slope,” he told NHJournal. “If you have members who will vote to take away rights from their fellow members of the House, who else will they vote to take away rights from? Today is mobilizing our people to be ready to fight in a month or so when more anti-gun bills come out.”

“This is the first day of a long two years,” Sweeney said.

NH Dems Say Lack of Gun Ban at State House Is Scaring Away School Children

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.”

Shaheen Uses Debunked School Shooting Stats During DeVos Grilling

It’s no secret that U. S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) isn’t a fan of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. She opposed DeVos’s nomination and has repeatedly criticized her since.

But this week the criticism veered into a new area: Guns.

During Secretary DeVos’s appearance before an Appropriations Subcommittee, Sen. Shaheen asked her about school safety and guns.  After reading a letter from a high school student in Dover, Shaheen went on to claim that “since 2009, the US has had 57 times more school shootings than the rest of the G7 countries combined. That’s 288 school shootings in the U.S.”

“The question I have for you, Secretary DeVos, is–what are these countries doing that we’re not doing? Do they have fewer mentally ill people? Do they arm their teachers? Or do they have more sensible gun laws?

Secretary DeVos suggested to the committee that the new Federal Commission of School Safety established at the behest of President Trump will not look at the issue of guns and gun violence–which, if true, would appear to be a glaring omission. However, Sen. Shaheen’s claim of 288 school shootings in the U. S. since 2009 also bears scrutiny.

According to researchers at Northeastern University, schools are actually safer than they were in the 90s, and school shootings are not more common.

“Since 1996, there have been 16 multiple victim shootings in schools, or incidents involving 4 or more victims and at least 2 deaths by firearms, excluding the assailant,” the report shows.  Now, Sen. Shaheen did not use the phrase “mass shootings,” which is what most people think of when they hear “school shootings,” so perhaps she simply meant all shootings at K-12 schools.

Ooops. Here’s their data on all school shootings where there was even a single fatality:

Notice that, since 2009, the number of fatal shootings rarely exceeds single digits. That would put the number since 2009 closer to 80, not 288.

Sen. Shaheen appears to be relying on a report from CNN which the network admits is based on their own count of media reports of shootings and not on actual police data. CNN also acknowledges their numbers  include, not just K-12 schools, but  colleges and vocational schools. Many of the incidents are  gang violence, domestic violence, robberies in school parking lots and accidents.

CNN didn’t reveal their raw data, but a previous CNN analysis of school shootings in 2018 included a student shot with a BB gun. Of the 23 school shootings on CNN’s list for 2018, only two meet the criteria of a mass shooting.

Every school shooting is an outrage, of course, and Sen. Shaheen’s questions about how the Department of Education intends to address the issue are certainly legitimate. But including bogus, poorly-sourced and debunked data in the conversation doesn’t advance legitimate debate.

Watch the exchange between Sen. Shaheen and Secretary DeVos here:

New Hampshire Gun Stores See Sales Rise On Vermont Border

When Republican Governor Phil Scott–who ran as an opponent of expanded gun laws–recently signed a series of gun restrictions into law, he was greeted with cries of “Traitor” from Second Amendment supporters in Vermont. But on the other side of the border, he may hear a different cry:

“Cha-CHING!”

According to media reports, New Hampshire gun stores in communities along the Vermont border are already seeing an uptick in sales–and are anticipating even more.

“We always get a fair amount of business from Vermont, but there has been a little bit of an uptick the last few weeks,” Dick Basnar of Corey’s Sports Shop in Littleton told Caldonian Record.

Leila Welch, owner of Welch’s Gun and Gift in Lebanon, NH is having a similar experience. “I don’t have many AR’s,” she told the NHJournal, “but I’ve had some magazines [people from New Hampshire] are buying.”

Restrictions on magazines (no more than 10 rounds for rifles, 15 rounds for handguns) are a key part of the new laws that will be taking full effect in Vermont as of October 1st. The law also expands background checks and prohibits people under the age of 21 from buying guns unless they take a government-approved training course.

 

Gov. Scott’s flip-flop on gun rights has inspired both a surge of anger–and possibly a surge in New Hampshire gun sales.  Meanwhile, Vermont’s gun rights activists insist these new laws are solving a “problem” that doesn’t exist.

“Our average murder rate by firearms is four a year, out of a population of 625, 000,” notes Eddie Cutler of Gun Owners of Vermont, a pro-Second-Amendment organization that’s organized opposition to these laws. “Once Gov. Scott, in his infinite wisdom, decided to [find] an excuse to pass gun control, he opened the flood gates and next thing we knew we were up to our armpits in gun control laws.”

And possibly a flood of gun sales in the Granite State beginning this fall.

O’Malley: Gun Control Is A Winning Issue For Democrats In 2020–And Beyond.

Martin O’Malley, former Maryland governor and 2016 Democratic presidential contender, brought a message of unabashed optimism to Tuesday’s “Politics and Eggs” event. Optimism–and liberalism.

“I bring good news,” O’Malley told the crowd at St. Anselm College. “It’s springtime. There’s goodness in this country, and it longs to be called forward.”

The “Politics and Eggs” event hosted by the New England Council and St. Anselm’s Institute of Politics is a mandatory stop on the presidential-contenders New Hampshire circuit.  O’Malley used this return visit to call upon Democrats to embrace the energy and idealism of young Americans. He specifically pointed to the leaders of the #MarchForOurLives rally for gun control, which he attended with his son.

“If you want to know where a country is headed, talk to its young people,” O’Malley said. “What I heard from that stage was the best of America.”

O’Malley made light of his previous less-than-successful bid for the White House, calling his return to the Granite State “a triumph of hope over cruel experience.”  He also took a pot shot at his previous POTUS rivals (“I was the only lifelong Democrat who ran for President in 2016”) and offered praise of a sort for the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:

“Donald Trump is the most effective tool for candidate recruitment we Democrats have ever had.”

On policy, O’Malley toed the progressive line on issues from gun control to immigration to social spending—even calling for an expansion of Social Security at a time when many analysts are concerned about its long-term solvency.

But the specific issue most on the mind of the crowd and the candidate was guns. “America is the only developed nation on the planet to allow people to buy combat assault weapons,” O’Malley said repeatedly throughout his remarks.  When a questioner asked what he would do about school violence “without repealing the Second Amendment,” O’Malley laid out his extensive record on gun control while governor of Maryland: Requiring fingerprints and gun training for all purchases; imposing a mandatory 7-day wait period; banning the sale of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition; and banning the sale of what O’Malley insists on calling “combat assault weapons.”

The NRA calls these same guns “45 specific types of commonly owned semiautomatic firearms” and Maryland passed O’Malley’s gun law in 2013 over their strenuous objections.  Interestingly, the homicide rate in Maryland has actually increased since the 2013 gun ban went into effect. In fact, the city of Baltimore alone had almost as many murders in 2017 (343) as the entire state had the last year O’Malley was governor (363). Why would gun crime increase in the wake of a gun ban, and at a faster rate than the nation as a whole?

“It’s hard to measure prevention,” O’Malley said, before laying the blame for increased homicide rates at the feet of the two Baltimore mayors,  Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake and Catherine Pugh, who were elected after he left the mayor’s office to become governor.

O’Malley claimed there’s “a strong correlation between states that make it harder for pope to buy combat assault weapons and lower rates of both homicides and suicides,” an opinion some researchers do not share.

“In Baltimore there were a number of things we did during the 10-year period [when O’Malley was mayor] we led all cities in the rate of reduction of crime, and I was not able to make many of those things permanent. Upon my leaving, my two successors starting making different policy choices.”

O’Malley paused, then added: “There really wasn’t much journalistic scrutiny about those reversals of policy and as a result a lot of people are being killed again in our poorest neighborhoods.”

So does Martin O’Malley believe that gun control is a winning issue for Democrats in 2020?

“Yes I do. In 2020, and beyond.”

NH Dem: Repealing Second Amendment “A Good Discussion To Have”

Is it time to repeal the Second Amendment?  Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote an op-ed for the New York Times urging just that, and at least one New Hampshire Democrat thinks it’s worth considering.

Rep. Katherine Rogers (D-Merrimack) has long been active in the New Hampshire state house pushing gun control measures (she prefers the phrase “gun violence prevention”) and in an interview with the NH Journal, she said “it’s an interesting discussion that we should have.”

“I think that the United States Constitution is a living, breathing document and it’s always time to revisit and to look at our Constitution,” Rep. Rogers said.

“So I think having this discussions is good, and maybe the op-ed by Justice Stevens leads to a lot of interesting discussion. That’s a good thing. I don’t know if I’m ready to say let’s get rid of the Second Amendment, but I think it’s an interesting discussion for everybody to have,” Rogers said.

Jonathan Weinberg, one of the student leaders of the #MarchForOurLives rallies in New Hampshire singled out Rep. Rogers, along with state senator Martha Hennessey (D-Hanover), for supporting students’ efforts on gun control. Last week, students from the group presented a petition signed by several hundred area students to Gov. Sununu and the state senate urging the legislature to change state law and allow local school districts to declare their schools gun-free zones. The measure failed 14-9.

Meanwhile, the New Hampshire GOP is following the lead of President Trump, seizing on the Stevens op-ed to urge gun-rights supporters to get involved in the 2018 elections.  Just hours after President Trump tweeted about Justice Stevens’ call for repeal (“NO WAY! We need more Republicans in 2018 ad must ALWAYS hold the Supreme Court!”) the NHGOP posted “StopTheGunGrab.com,” featuring a video by party chairwoman Jeanie Forrester. In the video, she warns New Hampshire residents that “The Left is openly advocating the repeal of the Second Amendment…It’s unconscionable.” (See full video below)

Forrester demands elected Democrats like Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Sen. Maggie Hassan and Rep. Annie Kuster “must denounce this un-American threat to our liberties.”

For their part, Democrats don’t seem worried. Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley responded to the video by mocking the GOP.

Is welcoming a conversation about repealing the Second Amendment and mocking gun-owners concerns a sign that the New Hampshire Democratic Party is moving left on the gun issue, along with their national party?  Do they believe that gun control could be a winning issue in the Granite State?

“Oh, please,” says Republican Bill O’Brien, former Speaker of the NH House, “throw us in that briar patch!” O’Brien believes that even among Democratic voters, support for gun rights in New Hampshire is strong.

“We’re not afraid of guns here,” O’Brien to the NHJournal. “I don’t know who [the Democrats] are talking to with these messages—maybe the academic crowd, college students? Let them run on gun control and see how most voters react.”