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Jennifer Horn: Will gun rights matter in 2018 as much as they did in 1994?

April 04. 2018 12:48AM

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote a column for the New York Times last week calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. It is, to be sure, a radical idea, especially coming from a Republican. This is not the first time Stevens has fallen on the side of greater gun control. In 2008, he was one of four dissenting votes in District of Columbia v. Heller, a decision that acknowledged an individual right to own firearms.

In the wake of the Parkland school shooting and the subsequent March for Our Lives movement, Justice Stevens sparked a nationwide conversation about the idea of repeal. Repealing the Second Amendment is a radical and untenable idea, but it was shocking just how many people, primarily Democrats, who jumped on board. Here in New Hampshire, Rep. Katherine Rogers, D-Concord, called it an “interesting discussion that we should have.”

There was a time not very long ago when defending the Second Amendment was mandatory for getting elected in New Hampshire, regardless of your party. Not just because we are a rural state with deep traditions, but more because we are a people with a strong self-identity of independence. Live Free or Die runs in our veins and it is rooted in a bipartisan embrace of the individual rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. And yet, there has been surprisingly little pushback from within the Democratic party to the very idea of repealing a constitutional amendment and no notable backlash to Rep. Rogers’ comments.

It makes one wonder, just how far to the left has the New Hampshire Democratic party slid? Is it possible for a candidate in New Hampshire to actually run against the Second Amendment? Former Congressman Charlie Bass would never have thought so. You may recall that Bass’s path to Congress was rooted in Congressman Dick Swett’s controversial 1994 vote for the assault weapons ban.

When I talked to Bass about it, he said that vote had a “dramatic” impact on the election. “After making a big deal about being pro-gun, Dick was pressured by leadership to vote for the ban and, at the last minute, he gave in. (Support for the Second Amendment) was a critical issue in that election, and it could be again in 2018.”

The fact that Democrats are so comfortable having this conversation to begin with raises the question of just which Constitutional right is next on their list? If you are willing to consider overturning the Second Amendment out of some perceived superiority to our Founding Fathers, then why not the First Amendment? If you ascribe to the idea that today’s elected representatives know better than Thomas Jefferson on your right to bear arms, then why not also give them authority over your right to freedom of religion?

The flip side to the argument of Democrats running on anti-gun agendas is that, in today’s convoluted political climate, they could do exactly the opposite with great success. In rural and industrial districts where Trump did well in 2016, a so-called moderate Democrat who even gives lip service to protecting the Second Amendment could be very successful, while his fellow Dems in more traditionally-liberal districts would be running on gun control. That only works, of course, if the DNC allows their candidates to run their own races based on their own best interests, and that could very well happen.

Here in New Hampshire, there is no question that gun rights will play an influential role in our upcoming elections. Incumbent Congresswoman Ann Kuster has all sorts of rambling language on her website about preventing gun violence, but no clear message on preserving Constitutional rights. Steve Marchand, Democratic candidate for governor, has launched a gun control agenda that includes banning certain “style” weapons, apparently learning nothing from Swett’s ill-fated vote.

Regardless of party, politicians in the Granite State would do well to remember that we are still a Live Free or Die people who value greatly our individual rights.

Nashua’s Jennifer Horn is the former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party and is active in political and civic affairs.

Crime, law and justice Politics Public Safety Gun Control Jennifer Horn

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