EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 30, 2013

Letter: Ayotte wrong on background check vote

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — To the editor:

Sen. Ayotte’s defenders (see April 24 and 25 letters to the editor) rightfully praise the reasonableness of her support for two gun-related bills.

But she deserves no praise for helping defeat the Toomey-Manchin background check bill and several other common sense amendments.

No one is against responsible gun ownership. But the senator and her defenders repeat the false, NRA-drafted claim that Toomey-Manchin could “some day” deny lawful gun owners their Second Amendment rights. In fact, Toomey-Manchin specifically forbade keeping a national registry.

Ayotte claims that all that is needed is to “enforce background checks already on the books.” Yes, better enforcement is needed.

But private sales online and at gun shows are not covered by the current law if the seller is not licensed. That’s a big loophole.

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, 50 to 75 percent of vendors at gun shows are unlicensed, 63 percent of private gun sellers acknowledge that they sold guns to those who admitted they couldn’t pass a background check and 10 percent of guns used by juveniles in crimes were bought at gun shows or flea markets.

Clearly tightening and enforcing the current law is not enough. Without private sale background checks we cannot prevent yet more guns going to criminals and the mentally ill, not to mention abusive boyfriends, those with violent criminal convictions, etc.

So Ayotte’s vote against Toomey-Manchin appears to be just a craven attempt to maintain her NRA “A” rating.

Ayotte and friends suggest that the most important way to reduce gun deaths in this country is to address mental illness. Keep guns away from the mentally ill? Of course, but Ayotte deserves no “Profile in Courage” award for her cosponsoring the Mental Health First Aid Act that passed the Senate 95-2.

If the senator supported banning assault weapons sales, an effective way going forward to keep such guns from the mentally ill, her “A” from the NRA might also be threatened. Look what can happen when the mentally ill, as Adam Lanza likely was, though undiagnosed, get their hands on an assault weapon, legally purchased — in Lanza’s case by his mother, who apparently gave him access.

Why do any civilians need weapons like that, whose only purpose is mass killing and heinous injury? Did you, senator, look at the children slaughtered in a matter of minutes in Newtown, with an assault weapon? Is an assault weapons ban really an infringement on Second Amendment rights? Instead how about supporting the elimination of civilian access to these war weapons? That would be courageous.

Of course, assault weapons do account for only a small percentage of gun deaths in this country — as do those attributed to people with diagnosed mental illness. But reputable numbers are hard to come by, due to gun lobby success restricting government agencies from collecting data on gun death causes. What is known, however, is that 33 Americans die by gun every day. Many of them are killed by criminals, who acquire guns easily through unregulated private sales, either directly or from third parties — another “loophole.”

As with her vote against Toomey-Manchin, the senator’s position on assault weapons reflects the interests of the gun lobby, not the American people.

Thousands of gun deaths would surely be prevented with expanded background checks, an assault weapons ban and other commonsense legislation.

Of course no law can prevent all gun deaths, but shouldn’t our elected representatives support all responsible efforts to diminish the carnage? Sen. Ayotte, when these proposals come up again, I hope you will abandon your reverence for the NRA and listen to the majority of NH citizens — including Republicans and gun owners — who are clearly on record supporting constructive ways, such as the Toomey-Manchin bill, to reduce gun violence

Charlie Zoeller