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Editorial: Some proposed gun bills miss mark

The national tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, helped bring the issue of guns in America to the forefront. But that debate seems to be dividing the country more than it’s bringing us together over a shared goal: to find solutions that will make mass public gun violence far less likely.

There’s been more than a fair share of opportunism as lobbyists for and against gun controls point to the Connecticut school shooting to back their positions. And the New Hampshire Legislature will have to weed through the propaganda this term, as a number of proposed gun bills are presented.

A bill put forward by Fremont Republican Daniel Itse calls for local school districts to decide whether school staff should be permitted to carry guns at school. It’s hard to imagine a world in which teachers carry guns at school, much less the potential ramifications of a firearms falling into the wrong hands in such a scenario. The bill, we hope, will be found inexpedient to legislate, and Itse has surmised the bill’s fate is just that.

Itse has also put forward a bill that would restrict judges from ordering the seizure of firearms as part of conditions of bail, except in the case of a firearm’s use in an alleged crime or when the alleged crime is considered violent. We say leave it up to each judge to make the decision, since every situation is different. Why attempt to simplify something that is far from simple?

HB 388 calls for civil immunity for the owner of a gun, when the loaded or unloaded gun is obtained illegally and is used in the commission of a crime. The bill passed the House narrowly and is in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The focus of this bill seems misguided, if our overarching goal is to put an end to violent crimes involving guns. Perhaps a bill requiring gun owners to properly secure their firearms would be more apropos.

But there are reasons for hope that New Hampshire is on the right track.

Rep. Delmare Burridge, a Keene Democrat, has proposed requiring those who openly carry guns to have a permit for a concealed weapon. This bill will unlikely be palatable to gun enthusiasts, but it would up the ante on the restrictions that keep firearms out of the hands of mentally ill persons.

HB 396 would require people to go through a training process before they are allowed to purchase a gun. This could serve as an opportunity for red flags to emerge before a gun gets into the wrong hands.

A recent study released by The National Science Foundation found that mental illness and access to video games of a violent nature both contribute to a person’s tendency to commit violent crime. If our goals are to change these patterns, maybe it’s time to look at the societal factors that allow them to perpetuate.

Hiding behind laws that protect gun owners from liability when their guns get into the wrong hands or looking to teachers to take on responsibility for the safety our schools won’t solve the bigger issues facing our country. It’s time to take responsibility for our obsession with violence, both real and simulated, and find ways to encourage responsible gun ownership.

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