Gun owners offer mixed opinions after hearing from Scott Brown

Last modified: 5/22/2014 9:54:32 AM
Last night on the corner of Main and Center streets, a group of about 50 protesters made clear that they don’t want Scott Brown in New Hampshire.

“Brownbagger, Go Home to Mass,” read a sign held by Jay Simkin of Nashua.

Across the street at the Holiday Inn, where Brown was speaking at a meeting of the Gun Owners of New Hampshire, opinions were mixed.

“He never gives a straight answer on anything,” one man declared in disgust as he walked out of Brown’s talk halfway through.

But several others in attendance thought Brown held command of the room and talked with sincerity.

Whether or not people liked what he had to say, they agreed he experienced a tough New Hampshire audience. Brown’s two-hour Q-and-A with about 100 members of the group was closed to the press, as the group’s meetings normally are, President Mitch Kopacz said.

Gun rights is one issue where Brown’s Republican primary opponents – Karen Testerman, Bob Smith and Jim Rubens – are likely to outshine him. Brown called Kopacz earlier this year after reading comments Kopacz made to the Monitor that he was not a fan of Brown’s gun record. As they talked on the phone, the two decided Brown should address the organization. Rubens and Smith spoke with the organization earlier this year. Testerman has not but is welcome to, Kopacz said.

After the meeting, Kopacz said Brown indicated a willingness to continue talking with the group. He said Brown declined to agree to signing any type of pledge regarding how he would vote on gun issues, but he said he would be willing to fill out a questionnaire indicating his positions. Kopacz said he thinks Brown needs to be better educated on gun issues.

“I’m more open to him in that he’s more open to us,” Kopacz said.

Gun Owners of New Hampshire does not endorse candidates.

The groups protesting outside included members from the Second Amendment Sisters and the organizing committee Packing NH. State Rep. JR Hoell, a Dunbarton Republican, helped organize the protest.

Hoell said he takes issue with many pieces of Brown’s record on guns: After the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Brown was the first Republican senator to declare support for a federal ban of so-called assault weapons, which gun rights groups say is a meaningless term. Brown also said he would oppose a “reciprocity law” debated by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2011, which would allow someone with a concealed carry permit in New Hampshire to carry in Massachusetts.

Sid Spreadbury of Rochester, a member of the National Rifle Association, was one of the protesters.

“I’ve looked back at his voting records from the place that he came from, and that’s enough to turn my stomach; I don’t need to listen to him,” he said.

The groups outside were offering raffle tickets to win a 9 mm Smith & Wesson or a 10/22 Takedown rifle.

Brown has repeatedly said the totality of his record, and his military commitment to defend the U.S. Constitution, show he is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. As a state senator in Massachusetts, he voted on updates to the state’s assault weapons ban that the Gun Owners Action League called “the greatest victory for gun owners since the passage of the gun control laws.”

Several people who left the meeting said they didn’t feel Brown gave a straight enough answer on anything, and wasn’t clear about his position on federal gun bans. But others said they understood that people’s votes can change and that they felt Brown was willing to listen to their perspectives.

“I think he’s very sincere,” said Al Campbell of Pelham. “I give him a B plus.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or or on Twitter @kronayne.)

Correction: This story has been updated to remove a quote from Mike Kopacz, who was not in attendance at the event.

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