Divide on guns

It should be simple.

There is always something to learn in Concord. When I first arrived, I was pleased to see how open our government is. Our citizens are welcome at all committee meetings and to testify on all bills. This openness also applies to lobbyists. At almost every hearing we hear testimony from the “experts,” (some of whom are shipped in from great distances).

While I believe that more information is always good to make an informed decision, sometimes it can make a simple bill more convoluted.

Each week, we pass or deny scores of bills on the consent calendar. Some of these bills are pretty technical, and yet we get very little mail on them. Other bills seem to hit a nerve, and it is not unusual to get hundreds of emails and letters on them. We recently had a bill on GMOs (Genetically Manipulated Organisms). It was a simple bill calling for the labeling of foods containing GMOs. To proponents of the bill, it was a simple “right to know” legislation. To opponents, such labeling will lead to ”world starvation.” This bill did not pass in the House. There is a similar bill in the Senate. We may yet have another bit of that apple.

Last week, we took up a bill that would extend background checks for purchasing firearms. In its final amended form, the bill would extend background checks for gun shows, Internet sales, and advertised sales. It still left private sales, among friends and family, unchecked. It also made illegal the keeping of registries. Well, you might have thought the world was about to end. Hundreds of emails rolled in. Proponents of this bill urged us to pass it. Opponents of the bill thought it was a Communist plot to ”confiscate” their guns. About half of those opposed sent the exact same letter — provided by their gun lobby — claiming this was out-of-state influenced and labeling those in favor of this bill as “puppets.” The irony was not lost on me.

There were so many emails, I kept a tracking poll. The results are more than interesting. There was a clear split on this bill depending on whether you are a male or a female. More males than females sent emails. Of over 200 emails sent by women, 87 percent favored the bill and spoke of protecting the children and innocents. Of over 300 emails sent by men, 76 percent opposed this bill citing violations to their personal freedom.

I saw this bill as a sensible approach to solve a loophole in our system. Others were influenced in the other direction and the measure failed in a very close vote.

Coming up soon is a vote to repeal New Hampshire’s Death Penalty law. Let your legislators know how you feel about this bill. Don’t leave it to the “experts” to be the voices heard.

Jon Manley of Bennington represents Hillsborough District 3, which includes Bennington, Greenfield and Hancock.

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