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The gun bill all sides should be able to agree on

  • A device called a “bump stock” is attached to a semi-automatic rifle at the Gun Vault store and shooting range in South Jordan, Utah. AP



For the Monitor
Saturday, February 10, 2018

I come from a place with more guns than people. In my rural northern district, which includes 28 percent of the state’s landmass, guns are part of our culture and are recognized as an essential tool. We also have a whole lot of common sense and know how to make tough decisions. With this perspective, it is my goal to find common ground on gun safety, one of the most divisive issues of our time.

That’s why I proposed legislation to ban so-called “bump stocks,” a device that converts semi-automatic weapons into fully-automatic weapons. It was this very tool that was used in the horrific slaughter in Las Vegas last October in the deadliest mass shooting in American history; 58 people killed and more than 500 injured. Using guns fitted with bump stocks, the murderer sprayed more than a thousand bullets in 11 minutes on innocent concert-goers. Bump stock devices evade the 1934 National Firearms Act banning machine guns, a law passed in the wake of the infamous “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.”

After the tragedy in Las Vegas, many long-time foes of gun safety legislation demonstrated both sympathy and openness to support legislation to ban bump stocks. Since then, the Republican Governors of New Jersey and Massachusetts have signed bills into law banning these devices. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu also seemed open to reasonable regulation in order to ensure public safety, stating that he “would be happy to take a look at it.” I sent Governor Sununu a letter with the legislation, asking that he review and recommend changes. During the Senate hearing, I again appealed to the Governor to make any reasonable changes he felt were necessary. I promised to support them sight unseen. As of today, I have yet to receive a response from the governor.

As the state’s leading voice for rural New Hampshire, I have an obligation do what is in the best interests of my constituents and to also be mindful of the welfare of our entire state. Bridging the ideological, cultural, and geographical divide was no small undertaking, but I repeatedly welcomed the ideas of others and offered to compromise. My Senate colleagues saw enough merit in the idea to create a study on bump stock devices. Republicans chose a somewhat unstructured study, while Democrats chose a more expansive one that included stakeholders on both sides of the issue. The former prevailed, but what is important is that progress was made with Republicans and Democrats unanimously agreeing to come together to study common sense gun safety measures.

Sometimes progress is made in inches, not miles, but I firmly believe this is a start. I see it as recognition that we can balance the rights of gun owners with public safety. Together we can protect our citizens from the expansion of military-style assault weaponry while still protecting Granite Staters’ Second Amendment right to bear arms.

(Jeff Woodburn, of Whitefield, represents the North Country in the Senate, where he serves as the Minority Leader)