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Gun-free State House: As safe as schools?

Last Thursday, the Rules Committee of the New Hampshire House voted 6-4 to ban firearms in every area of the State House controlled by the House of Representatives. How naive.

Almost exactly three years before, the Democratic-controlled Legislative Facilities Committee voted to ban guns from the State House. House Majority Leader Rep. Mary Jane Waller noted that children tour the state capitol. She said, "We have a responsibility to be sure this building is as safe as their schools."

That is not how anyone would put it now. But the sentiment is the same: Banning guns makes buildings and the people in them safer. It is demonstrably untrue, and yet unthinking politicians continue to make it policy.

At the start of the last legislative session, newly elected Republican House members voted to allow guns in and around the House. They did so in exactly the same fashion as the Democrats did last week. The House gun policy is established by the House rules. Those rules are set before the legislative session begins. Therefore, the rules on guns, whatever they are, must come before any legislation.

When Republicans voted to allow guns in the House, Democrats claimed they were radicals who put the issue of guns before the more important issue of passing legislation to improve the economy. They knew the charge was a fraud. They made it for the sole purpose of creating a false impression among the electorate. It worked.

Democrats are now tackling gun policy first for the same reason Republicans did - the rules have to be set before the start of the session. Does that make them radicals who don't care about the economy? Of course not. It just exposes the cynicism and dishonesty in their attack on Republicans two years before.

The worst that came of allowing guns in the House was that a legislator dropped a handgun, which did not go off. But irrational fear is a powerful motivator. The fear of guns, as opposed to guns in the wrong hands, drives this reactionary policy. God forbid that a deranged killer walks into the State House after this ban passes the full House. Unless a state police officer just happens to be nearby, who will stop him?


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