My Turn: Gun lobby tells Ayotte how to vote

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte speaks during a news conference last month on Capitol Hill in Washington to unveil a new gun legislation proposal. AP

For the Monitor
Published: 7/9/2016 12:25:00 AM

With the election nearing, Sen. Kelly Ayotte is working overtime to obscure her record of voting how the gun lobby tells her to.

On June 26, Sen. Ayotte took to the pages of this newspaper to announce her newfound support for ensuring that terror suspects can no longer pass a criminal background check and legally get a gun – legislation she had previously opposed.

But don’t be fooled: If Sen. Ayotte is serious about keeping guns out of the wrong hands and standing up to the gun lobby, she needs to account for her votes against closing the gaping loophole that lets anyone – terror suspects, felons and domestic abusers – bypass our criminal background check system altogether, and get their hands on a gun with no questions asked.

It’s common sense: You can’t say terrorists aren’t permitted to have guns and then vote to allow them to buy guns with no background check.

The fact is that Sen. Ayotte has a dangerous, irresponsible record of failing to vote for responsible laws that help reduce gun violence. Instead, time and time again, she has voted with the gun lobby.

In 2013, just four months after the murder of 20 children in their classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there was a compromise, bipartisan bill before the Senate that aimed to take simple but powerful steps to prevent gun tragedies, closing the existing gaps in our laws that allow an untold number of guns to be sold at gun shows and on the internet without the buyer undergoing a criminal background check, including here in New Hampshire.

Sen. Ayotte voted no and blocked that bill. In December of 2015, she voted again against legislation that would close loopholes in the background check system that let dangerous people buy guns.

And in the wake of the Orlando tragedy, the deadliest mass shooting in our nation’s history, Sen. Ayotte voted one more time against legislation that would expand background checks and help ensure criminals, abusers and the dangerously mentally ill can’t get their hands on guns. Instead, she supported the gun lobby’s smoke-and-mirrors plan that does little to strengthen our background check system and keep guns out of dangerous hands. It might be good material for her campaign ads, but it’s bad policy, and it doesn’t fix the problem.

Sen. Ayotte’s votes against background checks have met with sharp disapproval from Granite Staters. According to research conducted by Public Policy Polling, 89 percent of Granite Staters support the reasonable idea that every gun sale should be covered by a criminal background check.

That step is so necessary, because our great state and our great country remain in the grips of a gun violence crisis. Someone is killed with a gun in New Hampshire every three days, and across our nation, 91 Americans die every single day from a gun. Americans are 20 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than in other countries like ours.

Sen. Ayotte must know that this flawed system puts our communities and families at risk, and that we can do better. In states that have already closed the loopholes so that every handgun sale requires a background check, 46 percent fewer women are shot to death by their intimate partners, the number of law enforcement officers shot to death is 48 percent lower and there are 48 percent fewer firearms suicides. Background checks might not prevent every gun tragedy or prevent every terrorist from getting a gun, but this responsible change will save thousands of lives.

As Election Day approaches, Sen. Ayotte is doing what typical politicians do when they’ve put special interests over the interests of their constituents and are worried about paying the price at the ballot box: trying to have it both ways.

On guns, Sen. Ayotte has been saying one thing and doing another, desperately trying to cover up her record, and hoping voters won’t know the difference.

Until Sen. Ayotte breaks with the gun lobby and supports closing loopholes in our background check laws, her campaign slogans are just empty rhetoric. Granite Staters know the difference, and it’s one we won’t forget in November.

(Rep. Katherine Rogers of Concord is a former Merrimack County attorney and currently represents Merrimack District 28 in the New Hampshire House.)

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