CONCORD, N.H. — More than 100 opponents of gun violence gathered at the State House Monday to demand Gov. Chris Sununu sign three bills which they believe would help protect the Granite State from mass gun violence.
Zandra Rice Hawkins, spokesman for Gun Sense New Hampshire, a project of Granite State Progress, which organized the event, said it is a “pivotal moment” following several mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend.
She said the governor is on “the hot seat” to sign the three most important gun-related bills to pass this legislative session.
– House Bill 514, which creates a waiting period between the purchase and delivery of a firearm.
– House Bill 564, which clarifies the statewide “gun-free” school zones.
– House Bill 109, which closes background check loopholes for purchase of a firearm.
Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, signed the bills Monday afternoon, said Sara Persechino, the Senate spokesperson. The bills will next go to Governor Sununu for his action.
“So far, New Hampshire has been spared in this onslaught of gun violence and mass shootings — we’re one of just four states without a mass shooting since Sandy Hook. But I for one am not comfortable wishing and hoping that “luck” continues. We cannot wait for a tragedy like Dayton or El Paso to strike in our state to take action. That time is now. These bills are common sense preventative measures that will save lives,” Soucy said.
“I implore Governor Sununu to join the House, the Senate, and the people of New Hampshire in supporting these commonsense gun violence prevention efforts. At the very least, we ask today that he put politics aside and let these bills become law without his signature. Enough is enough.”
State Rep. Katherine Rogers, D-Concord, sponsor of one of the bills, noted that the governor tweeted Saturday evening about the El Paso shootings, which has left at least 22 dead.
He called it “nothing short of devastating,” and that he was sending prayers to those impacted by the “senseless act of violence” at an El Paso Wal-Mart.
“For those who say we cannot pass laws that will curb the violence, you are ignoring the statistics that clearly rebut your claim,” Rogers said. “Look at the numbers: States that require criminal background checks on all handgun sales report 46 percent fewer women are fatally shot by their partners, 48 percent fewer incidents of police shot and killed in the line of duty and 64 percent fewer guns are trafficked out of state.”
“A waiting period will prevent suicides,” Rogers said.
In a statement, Rep. Mary Heath, D-Manchester, who could not attend, said her bill HB 564 is critical for school districts to have the authority to put in place policies to assure schools have safe environments for children that are gun-free with the exception of those individuals designated to carry weapons to safeguard the children and school environment.
House Speaker Steve Shurtleff, D-Concord, who also did not attend, offered a statement distributed to the press.
“This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, this is a New Hampshire and an American issue, and it is going to take all of us working together for the common good to find a solution,” Shurtleff said.
Members of the Kent Street Coalition, which have worked on the passage of the gun bills since the beginning of the winter, indicated they are getting together this summer to discuss what further measures they would like to see brought forward in the next legislative session.