New Hampshire Democrats compared to Nazis at House committee vote on firearms bill 

  • A “red flag law” poster depicting Democratic sponsors of the bill next to flags of Nazi Germany. Ethan DeWitt / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 10/30/2019 6:28:33 PM

A House committee hearing on a firearms-related bill took a bitter turn Wednesday after activists in the crowd appeared with signs comparing New Hampshire Democrats to Nazis.

House Bill 687 would establish extreme risk protection orders, allowing family members of those deemed a risk to themselves or others to seek temporary confiscation of firearms ahead of court proceeding – sometimes known as a “red flag law”. Members of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee took up the bill for a vote Wednesday morning, ultimately deadlocking on whether to recommend it to the full House, 10-10.

But as members deliberated, a half dozen gun rights advocates in the packed hearing room brandished posters featuring an array of Democratic state senators and representatives pictured next to a swastika, prompting an eventual rebuke by the committee’s chairman.

The posters, produced by the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition, depicted the heads of 11 Democratic lawmakers on top of a cartoon representation of the flags of several authoritarian regimes in red, including the former Soviet Union, China, and the Third Reich of Nazi Germany.

That latter flag depicted a swastika encased in a circle and surrounded by a cross – the Nazi military flag used in World War II. In Soviet-style text adorning the image, the poster reads: “There’s no law quite like a red flag law!”

Over the cartoon flags were floating headshots of Sens. David Watters, of Dover; Jay Kahn, of Keene; Jeanne Dietsch, of Peterborough; Martha Hennessey, of Hanover; and Tom Sherman, of Rye, as well as Reps. Bob Backus, of Manchester; Debra Altschiller, of Stratham; Donovan Fenton, of Keene; Manny Espitia, of Nashua, and Mary Jane Mulligan, of Hanover. Each of the Democrats is a sponsor of HB 687.

Some of the members on the poster condemned the picture.

“To imply any relationship of my views on gun safety with the meaning of these flags that represent racist, fascist, Communist nations, is revolting,” Kahn said.

Mulligan, who attended the committee meeting, said she had tried during the proceedings to get the signs removed by building security, but was told it was up to the chairman.

“I was stunned that they were allowed to stay in there,” she said.

But Kurt Beswick, vice president of the Firearms Coalition who appeared at the hearing with the poster, said he did not consider it inappropriate.

“When you look at the history of gun control, it starts with the Nazis, the Communists, the socialists, and every other dictatorial form of government starting with confiscation of weapons,” he said outside the hearing room. “This is why all pro-firearms groups are so anti any of these confiscation bills. It starts as a very simple, nice thing to do and it rolls downhill from there.”

The posters brushed shoulders with advocates from Moms Demand Action, a pro-gun control group, and others, amid a tense debate ahead of the vote. After the vote, they led to a stern apology from Chairman Renny Cushing, a Hampton Democrat, who said he hadn’t seen them until the vote had closed.

“Had I seen it, that would violate every piece of decorum and I think it’s not appropriate to have in this chamber,” he said, adding he would have removed the posters.

HB 687 would establish a streamlined procedure to request a court order to allow firearms to be temporarily removed from the home for four to seven days – without needing to notify the person ahead of time. The process would trigger a court process by which the respondent could prove that they don’t pose a danger to themselves or others, at the end of which the court could extend the order by up to 12 m.

Republicans on the committee have rejected it, arguing it impedes on Second Amendment rights by depriving citizens of firearms without sufficient recourse. Democrats, meanwhile, say it would provide a mechanism by which concerned family members could take away a deadly weapon at a time of critical need – addressing potential suicides, domestic violence murders and mass shootings.

The Criminal Justice committee tied 10-10 on whether to recommend passing the bill, after two Democrats, Reps. Andrew O’Hearne and John Bordenet sided with Republicans to oppose recommending it. A subsequent motion to recommend killing the bill also fell, 9-11, forcing the committee to move the bill to the House floor in January without a recommendation.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at, at (603) 369-3307, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)

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