N.H. lawmaker drops gun on floor at start of hearing for full day kindergarten 

Monitor staff
Published: 1/12/2017 3:58:14 PM

State Rep. Carolyn Halstead made an unexpected entrance to a House hearing on full-day kindergarten Thursday.

When the House Education Committee member removed her backpack and took a seat at the head table, her loaded handgun came dislodged from her waistband and fell to the floor, she said. The firearm did not discharge and the hearing proceeded with little notice, onlookers said.

Halstead said afterward she was embarrassed and unsure whether some children seated in the front row saw.

“I apologize,” the Milford Republican said. “I don’t normally carry a backpack. I guess that’s not a good combination. Lesson learned.”

House Speaker Shawn Jasper issued a statement later, saying he had met with Halstead and “impressed upon her that, while no harm came from this incident, her lack of control is unacceptable.”

Lawmakers and the public are allowed to carry guns inside the State House and neighboring Legislative Office Building, where most committees meet. It’s legal in New Hampshire to carry concealed firearms with a license, which Halstead said she has.

The gun’s safety lock was on, she said, and it has never dropped before. The two-term representative takes defense classes and said she plans to work with her instructor to find a better place to carry her concealed gun.

“It’s not something I knew would happen, and if I did, I wouldn’t have carried it that way,” she said.

Hopkinton Rep. David Luneau, the sponsor of the bill to fund full-day kindergarten, said he heard a thump during his testimony, but kept on speaking.

It’s not the first time a lawmaker has dropped a concealed gun at the State House. Former Rep. Kyle Tasker made headlines in 2012 when his M1911 pistol fell from its shoulder holster to the ground at the start of a House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee meeting.

The hearing on full-day kindergarten lasted several hours, and is poised to be a major issue this session. The bill seeks to increase state aid to school districts that extend their kindergarten programs from half to full days. More than half the 176 school districts – including Merrimack Valley, Pembroke and Pittsfield – already have full-day kindergarten, according to the state Department of Education.

The state only pays for a halfday, but Luneau said it should be financially helping those that opt for a longer day. The estimated cost to the state would be an estimated $14.5 million, according to the bill’s fiscal note. Republican first-term Gov. Chris Sununu has voiced support for full-day kindergarten in communities that want it.

Halstead said her gut reaction to the bill is to oppose it.

“I am not one of those who believes the earlier you put a child in learning programs the better,” she said. “We should not be making kids go to school (all day) at 5-years-old.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)


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