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'Activists, GOP push for gun-rights veto override'

Last modified: 9/7/2011 12:00:00 AM
Pro-gun activists and Republican legislators held a press conference yesterday on the eve of a Senate vote this afternoon to override Gov. John Lynch's veto of a bill that allows citizens greater authority to use deadly force.

"Criminals should not have a greater right to life than us," said Rep. Jenn Coffey, an Andover Republican and women's self-defense advocate, flanked by about 50 people gathered in the Legislative Office Building in support of the bill. The state's senators are set to take up the override vote when their session opens at 1 p.m.

Senate Bill 88, which passed both houses by veto-proof margins, allows citizens to use deadly force in self-defense wherever they "have a right to be" without attempting to retreat from the situation, a provision that currently applies only to situations occurring in the victim's home or surrounding area. The bill also includes provisions related to the experience of Ward Bird, who was imprisoned for waving a gun at a woman on his property. Lynch has said he would sign those provisions into law separately, but Republican legislators say they want the entire bill to become law.

Yesterday's Republican press conference follows a public relations push by Lynch in recent weeks to see his veto of SB 88 stand. Backed by the top law enforcement officials in the state, the Democratic governor has visited local communities to argue that the bill will lead to more gang violence and avoidable homicides.

Lynch released a statement yesterday ahead of today's vote.

"This debate should not be about political wins or losses inside the State House. It is about public safety," Lynch said. "And it should not be about a political ideology.

"The only ideology of law enforcement is keeping us safe, and law enforcement from across the state and at all levels oppose this bill, because they say it will make our communities more dangerous."

Evan Nappen, a Concord attorney representing Pro-Gun New Hampshire, spoke at yesterday's press conference.

"Governor Lynch's message that this somehow emboldens criminals and gangbangers is irresponsible," he said.

Noting that a person must meet baseline legal justifications when acting in self-defense, he said the law "only helps the law-abiding citizens, not the criminals."

Law enforcement officials say nothing is wrong with the current law and there is no reason to change it. Attorney General Michael Delaney has said the state of Florida similarly broadened citizens' deadly force authority in 2005 and the number of justifiable homicides tripled.

Coffey argued the concerns are overblown.

"New Hampshire won't turn into the Wild West," she said.

(Matthew Spolar can be reached at 369-3309 or mspolar@cmonitor.com.)


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