Let’s get started on the thoughts and prayers now because it’s not out of the realm of possibility that New Hampshire will find itself in the spotlight for a mass shooting.
One of the more recent multiple-casualty events occurred April 18 in neighboring Maine, where a 34-year-old man recently released from prison stands charged with fatally shooting four people, including his parents, in Bowdoin before opening fire on motorists traveling busy interstate highway 295, injuring three, one critically.
Closer to home, a 25-year-old was arrested in Portland, Maine, on April 13 and charged with threatening to “shoot up” Portsmouth High School. The suspect allegedly posted a video of his intentions on social media. Seacoastonline reported that investigators found multiple firearms, including an AR-15 rifle, ammunition and tactical gear in the suspect’s car, according to a federal prosecutor.
Gun-rights advocates often point to mental health as the issue and say the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. In fact, a Harvard study found that states with higher levels of household gun ownership have higher rates of firearm homicide and overall homicide.
In Uvalde, Texas, 376 good guys with guns couldn’t stop a heavily armed 18-year-old from mowing down 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School last year.
The gunman, who investigators believe had never fired a gun before the May 24 attack, was able to stockpile military-style rifles, accessories and ammunition without arousing suspicion from authorities, according to The Texas Tribune.
The list of mass shootings in this country is long — and rapidly growing longer. The U.S. is setting a record pace for mass killings in 2023, according to the Associated Press: 88 lives lost in 17 mass killings over 111 days. In each case, the killers wielded firearms.
Victims have included children at a Tennessee grade school, bank employees in Kentucky and “Sweet 16” partygoers in Alabama.
And as these incidents play out in quotidian surroundings with horrifying frequency, are we to look the other way and pretend nothing can be done to prevent more of them from occurring, perhaps even in our own backyard?
In a recent speech to the National Rifle Association, Gov. Chris Sununu, who is considering a 2024 presidential run, criticized fellow Republicans who “cave under political pressure when it comes to the Second Amendment.”
“What is that about?” he asked the crowd gathered in Indianapolis April 14, just one day after the Portsmouth incident.
Maybe it’s about the 3,431 people killed in mass shootings (defined as four or more dead) in this country between 2016 and 2022, according to statistics compiled by the Gun Violence Archive. And that’s to say nothing of the number injured in mass shootings or killed by other forms of gun violence.
Maybe it’s about common sense.
Sensible restrictions, like banning the general sale of assault-style weapons such as the AR-15, have been enacted in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In 1994, the U.S. enacted such a ban, which Congress failed to renew when the measure expired 10 years later.
Politicians held hostage by the gun lobby have shown little interest in protecting you and your children or grandchildren from being gunned down at school, a place of worship, Walmart or a social club. But, rest assured, they will somberly offer “thoughts and prayers” in the aftermath.
Gov. Sununu told the NRA gathering that New Hampshire is all about individual freedom and responsibility. “Government is not here to solve your problems,” he said.
The Pew Research Center notes 64,000 registered firearms in New Hampshire, but the number in residents’ hands could be much higher because the state doesn’t require guns to be registered. Part of the Live Free or Die ethos, the state’s full-throated support of gun ownership has been on display locally, from last year’s “Build Your Own AR-15” workshop, held at the Ferry Brook Range in Keene, to this year’s “30 Guns in 30 Days” raffle sponsored by the Cheshire County Republican Committee to support the election of Republican candidates.
Polls show most Americans support some reform of gun laws, including mandatory background checks and licensing for gun purchases, along with passage of a national “red-flag” law, which would give a judge authority to order the removal of guns from a person who poses a risk.
They also support increased funding for mental health screening and treatment.
If we want to alter America’s violent landscape, we should elect lawmakers who acknowledge that guns are part of the problem and who demonstrate a willingness to consider sensible reform.
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