Clear
22°
Clear
Hi 33° | Lo 19°

Sandy Hook victims’ families, gun supporters testify on background check bill

  • Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, speaks at a press conference on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 in support of House Bill 1589, which would expand background checks for purchasing guns in New Hampshire.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, speaks at a press conference on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 in support of House Bill 1589, which would expand background checks for purchasing guns in New Hampshire.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

  • Mark Barden shows a photo of his son Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, while speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 in support of House Bill 1589, which would expand background checks for purchasing guns in New Hampshire.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Mark Barden shows a photo of his son Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, while speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 in support of House Bill 1589, which would expand background checks for purchasing guns in New Hampshire.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

  • Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, speaks at a press conference on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 in support of House Bill 1589, which would expand background checks for purchasing guns in New Hampshire.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Mark Barden shows a photo of his son Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, while speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 in support of House Bill 1589, which would expand background checks for purchasing guns in New Hampshire.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

Strong criticism from gun rights activists followed emotional testimony from parents whose children died in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting as lawmakers considered a bill yesterday to expand background checks for firearm sales in New Hampshire.

The bill, proposed in the House this year, would require background checks before all firearm sales, including gun show and internet sales. Many of its opponents were concerned that it would prevent gun owners from allowing friends to have or borrow their firearms without clearance from a licensed dealer. A violation of the bill would be a felony-level offense.

“What happened at Sandy Hook, God bless them kids there. That’s a shame that that happened,” said Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Londonderry Republican. “But this here law would never ever in a million years correct what went on over there.”

Two parents of young children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 were among the bill’s supporters yesterday. Nicole Hockley has traveled the country advocating for background checks and gun control legislation since her 6-year-old son Dylan was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting. She said expanded background checks would not have saved her son, but that has not stopped her from working to save other children from gun violence.

“I’m weary of the constant fighting between ‘gun control’ and ‘gun freedom,’ ” Hockley said. “As a people, why can’t we focus less on our differences and more on our similarities? . . . If even one more child can be saved, isn’t it our moral obligation to do that?”

Mark Barden said he advocates for background checks in memory of his son Daniel, a first-grader who was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting.

“When I was considering leaving my family to come here today, I just asked myself, ‘What would Daniel do?’ ” he said. “I hold my Second Amendment rights sacred to me, and I do not intend to share them with felons, criminals and terrorists.”

Federal gun restrictions already prohibit felons, fugitives, drug addicts and people under domestic violence restraining orders from purchasing guns. The proposed House bill, similar to legislation blocked in the U.S. Senate last year, would extend background checks to internet and gun show sales of firearms.

The federal government also prohibits people who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility from purchasing firearms, but mental health records are not public under New Hampshire law. A different bill proposed in the New Hampshire Senate this year would prohibit gun sales to people judged mentally incompetent by a court. It also faced strong opposition at a hearing last week, from mental health advocates and liberty rights activists in addition to gun rights advocates.

Each of the eight sponsors of the background check bill is a Democrat. Rep. Elaine Andrews-Ahearn, its prime sponsor, said expanded background checks would prevent criminals from purchasing firearms.

“This means there will be fewer guns in the hands of dangerous people and then maybe, just maybe, fewer people will be shot,” said Andrews-Ahearn, a Hampton Falls Democrat.

Opponents, who outnumbered the bill’s supporters at yesterday’s hearing, said criminals would purchase firearms illegally.

“There are those people out there every day who will have no regard for you, no regard for the law,” said Ralph Demicco, owner of Riley’s Sport Shop in Hooksett. “As a firearms dealer, I could stand to make quite a bit of money on this law. I think it’s wrong. And this committee should really consider the impact of what you’re looking at.”

Others, speaking out during a more than four-hour hearing, criticized the bill’s regulation of transferring guns between friends or acquaintances.

“It’s an outrageous bill,” said Jack Kimball, former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party. “The right for the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. . . . This bill will do only one thing: It will turn thousands of law-abiding New Hampshire citizens into felons.”

The bill’s exceptions for temporarily transferring firearms include transfers for self-defense, between spouses, at registered firearm competitions or shooting ranges and to minors for hunting or education under the supervision of an adult.

Sen. David Pierce, an Etna Democrat, said the bill would prevent the state from maintaining a registry of gun owners based on the background checks.

“It is the common sense that has long been missing from our gun laws,” Pierce said. “It simply requires a background check for every firearm sale.”

Eileen Landies, chairwoman of the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, said the legislation infringes on the right to own property. She is also a member of Second Amendment Sisters, a group that holds monthly female-only gun shoots. She said women come to learn about self-defense in a safe environment, and the events are often held on private property instead of shooting ranges.

“So this gives them the opportunity to try weapons, but it would be a felony for me to allow someone else try one of my guns under this piece of legislation, that’s the issue,” Landies said.

The House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee will make a recommendation on the bill before it goes to the full House. If it passes, it will go to the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and must pass the full House a second time before it is sent to the Senate.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

Legacy Comments6

As much as we sympathize with the families of the victims of violent murderers, we cannot let their input affect our consideration of what laws we pass. Theirs is a perspective controlled by emotion and personal animus, and not logical. I would bet that every one of them would advocate saying "To hell with the Constitution. I want all guns banned." That is not acceptable, and people who hold that view should not even be at the table, no matter how sympathetic they are.

your Govt record on gun background checks. 70,000+ violations of people not permitted to own a gun were stopped by the check. Obama crime syndicate ( Eric Holder) has prosecuted only 48. (won only 7)

I don't think that any gun law could really prevent senseless killings no matter the intention. However I don't think you should be able to buy them as if they were a pair of shoes. The one common thread I see in any comment where gun control is the topic is also the most pointless. That is, that gun laws are pointless because criminals could always get guns. I am not concerned with criminals primarily, it is the so called law abiding person that goes on a rampage. Most of the publicized shootings didn't involve criminals. They involved unstable people or children who had easy access to carelessly stored guns. Until we change as a society and stop embracing violence as a way of life, no law will fix the problem.

You can't buy guns like shoes now. Gunbroker.com is the biggest online gun sales agent in the country - it's the eBay of guns. People who buy and sell on Gunbroker.com are already subject to background checks on every transaction. And another thing, if this law passes, how are the cops gonna know who's gun belongs to whom - without mandatory registration? Cops show up at the "scene" of a "gun transfer" between two private citizens - asks, "who's gun is this?" - both perties throw up their hands and say, "I dunno?" - what then? Cop confiscates gun anyway. This is a terribly written law. Closing the gun show loophole in the 2/3 of states that currently have it would actually be a common-sense, fair law. This mess ain't.

This would only work... IF... criminals actually followed the law. Extended background checks would have done nothing to prevent this tragedy from happening. We cant justify any of this on the basis of 'even saving one life'. That would be akin to saying... we should eliminate all forms of mechanized travel, because it might save one life... People, we are born, we live, we die. I'm not trying to be insensitive here, but...we can't legislate away violence. We can't be disillusioned into thinking more laws are better, or they will prevent things. Criminals are just that, because they didn't follow the law. People will find a way to kill themselves or others, be it gun, car, pencil, knife, charcoal grills, and so forth. If people spent the same amount of money as they do trying to eliminate gun rights, on helping the mentally ill, I think that would be money well spent.

This bill will do absolutely nothing to deter gun crime. It should not be passed into law.

Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.