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Newtown reactions: Proceed with care

While the three Democratic members of New Hampshire's congressional delegation were embarrassing themselves earlier this week by reflexively calling for a federal ban on "assault weapons" (what weapon isn't?), Democrats in Concord have been more cautious, which is somewhat encouraging.

Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan said during the campaign that she would support an assault-weapons ban. But after the Newtown, Conn., shootings, she issued a more restrained statement: "While we continue to learn more facts about the horrific tragedy in Connecticut, we owe it to those we've lost to come together and determine what can be done to make our communities safer and better, including improving our mental health system and addressing the proliferation of deadly assault weapons."

Some other top Democrats have proceeded with even more care. "We really have to think about how we deal with the mentally ill," Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, said. "We know that hospitals have done away with psychiatric wards and the State Hospital is jammed."

The path to be avoided is the one Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Sylvia Larsen, D-Concord, is heading down. She is talking about pursuing pre-existing partisan priorities such as undoing the state's "stand your ground" law, which allows a person to legally use deadly force to stop a potentially deadly assault in a public place, and the policy allowing firearms in the State House.

The goal, of course, ought to be to spend some time going over existing laws as well as the data on mass shootings to come up with sensible policies that would actually reduce the occurrence of these tragedies without infringing upon the rights of citizens to protect themselves. If Hassan and legislative leaders (as well as members of Congress) do that, they might really improve public safety.

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