CONCORD — State Rep. Katherine Rogers said she might have been the only person who thought Gov. Chris Sununu would not veto a trio of gun-control bills passed along party lines in the state Legislature.
CONCORD – Gov. Chris Sununu dashed the hopes of gun control advocates Friday, vetoing all th…
The vetoes Friday came as a crescendo of calls for gun control built in Washington, after last week’s mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.
In particular, the idea of imposing background checks on all gun sales is picking up steam in Washington, as several Democratic lawmakers call for the additional regulation, and President Donald Trump said Friday he wanted “meaningful” background checks.
But Rogers’ bill that would have required background checks on all gun sales and gifts in New Hampshire was one of three Sununu vetoed. The governor also vetoed a three-day waiting period to take possession of a gun — another bill Rogers sponsored — and a bill that would have made it a misdemeanor to bring a firearm onto school grounds.
The vetoes did not deter her, she said.
“I’ll refile the bills on Sept. 4,” she said. “Full speed ahead.”
Robert Clegg, president of Pro-Gun New Hampshire, said the bills had been poorly thought out.
“This is typical politicians, passing bills so they can smile at their constituents and say, ‘Look what I did,’ ” said Clegg, a former state legislator.
He was against a waiting period between buying a gun and getting the gun because if someone was buying a gun for protection, they would feel vulnerable for a few more days.
Rogers said she advocated for the waiting period so people who were trying to commit suicide would have a few days to reconsider, and so people buying weapons in the heat of anger would have time to cool off.
The bill on school zones was too broad for Clegg, he said, because it would have made it a misdemeanor for a person to leave a gun in a car parked on school grounds when he or she went into a school — say, for a basketball game, or to vote.
“There was no thought put into that one,” he said.
Clegg said the current federal background checks, which use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to pick up criminal convictions, as well as court orders that committed someone to a mental institution, are too restrictive.
“Some people are fine on medication: We shouldn’t stigmatize them and say they’re a second class citizen because they’re not,” he said.
For that reason, Clegg said, he opposed requiring background checks for gun sales and gifts between individuals, which do not use the criminal background check system. State law requires only that the buyer be “personally known” to the seller.
J.R. Hoell, a leader of advocacy group New Hampshire Firearms Coalition, said New Hampshire is already a safe state — and he credited the state’s permissive gun laws.
“None of the bills would have made us any safer,” he said.
Hoell said a background check would only catch people who have committed earlier crimes — he said some people who commit mass shootings have no criminal record. He added he thought background checks will lead inevitably to an additional regulation, the registration of guns.
Hoell said he thought Sununu was right to focus on mental illness to prevent violence.
“We as a society have failed a number of individuals,” he said. He said he would prefer to help the angry, hopeless people of the world.
Hoell went on to suggest psychiatric medications could be to blame for mass shootings. He cited a fringe theory advanced in a Facebook post by a gun manufacturer that common medications like Ritalin and Prozac make people more prone to violence.
“Let’s examine if there’s a link between medications: Should these medications be on the market?” Hoell asked.
Tracy Hahn Burkett of Concord neighborhood activist group Kent Street Coalition said she thought Sununu’s veto message was glib.
Hahn Burkett said she wished Sununu had spoken with her and other gun control advocates who demonstrated at the capitol last week. She felt Sununu ignored her worries about gun violence.
“He’s not taking the problem seriously. People are truly afraid to send their kids to school, to go to the movies or the shopping mall,” she said.
“He made it clear that he’s not going to take people’s concerns about gun violence seriously. He’s probably not the right person to be sitting in the governor’s office.”