SALEM, N.H. — It was a coincidence that Congresswoman Annie Kuster, D-New Hampshire, was reading the letters her father sent home during World War II.
She couldn't help but think of them during a phone call with the FBI after the Walmart shooting in El Paso last weekend. According to police, the shooter confessed to targeting Mexicans in the border city. Twenty-two people were killed and about two dozen were injured.
Most of the dead had Hispanic last names and eight were Mexican nationals.
“The forces of evil have been running rampant,” Kuster said, when talking about the shooter's anti-Latino manifesto posted online.
Kuster spoke about the letters and her response to the shooting at a combined Salem Rotary and and Chamber of Commerce breakfast at Tuscan Kitchen Friday morning.
She was there to talk about her legislative priorities, and was asked a question about bipartisanship. She said her mind immediately went to gun laws and immigration policy as examples of where bipartisan work could help.
“Elected officials need to be careful of their language as well. We may have a difference of opinions on policy — on immigration I’m more than willing to have that conversation — but we shouldn’t be setting up a situation where we are targeting people in our community for violence,” she said.
As for gun regulations she supports, she said that the House of Representatives has passed a bill expanding background checks, and the Senate has yet to vote on that bill. She added Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has not allowed that legislation to be voted on.
The expanded background check bill would close multiple loopholes, according to Kuster, including one that would prevent people from buying guns until their background checks came back. She said that currently if a background check takes more than three days, then the gun buyer is allowed to purchase the firearm without the complete check.
Kuster added that she is looking into potential “Red Flag” laws, which would allow family members to petition courts to take away guns from those who are too unstable to have them.
Kuster also spoke about bringing federal dollars to New Hampshire through infrastructure, college and opioid programs.
Salem, Kuster pointed out, has received federal grants for the fire department, including one for adding eight firefighters last year, she said. Also the department is currently in the process of receiving a grant to help emergency personnel respond to the opioid crisis.
“I’m looking for opportunities to bring federal funding back (to New Hampshire) so you get your 100 cents on the dollar,” Kuster said.