NH advocate, gun violence survivor attend “Coffee with Kelly” in Washington DC, ask Ayotte to meet with constituents about gun violence prevention; Meeting took place just one day before NH voters barred from Ayotte campaign town hall for wearing gun violence prevention t-shirts
WASHINGTON, DC – Gun violence survivor Clai Lasher-Sommers of Westmoreland and gun violence prevention advocate Sonia Prince of Nashua flew to Washington, DC last Thursday to attend U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte’s weekly constituent ‘Coffee with Kelly’ after Ayotte has refused to meet with gun violence prevention advocates in New Hampshire despite several requests over the last three years.
“Senator Ayotte sided with the gun lobby over the 89 percent of her constituents who support common sense background checks, and she’s avoided meetings about it ever since,” said Prince, a mother of three whose children attend school in the same district as Ayotte’s own children. “I told her that every time I buzz into the school I think of mass shootings, and that it’s sad our children are coming home concerned because they did a shooting drill at school. We need to take action to end gun violence.”
Lasher-Sommers, a gun violence survivor who was shot in the back when she was just 13 years old and who has become an outspoken advocate on gun violence prevention, talked to Ayotte about her personal experience and the need to close the background checks loophole and the terror gap.
“This is the second time I’ve been in Washington DC to meet with Senator Ayotte during a Coffee with Kelly this year,” said Lasher-Sommers. “It was the first time I felt that she really listened, although she did not make any commitments regarding future votes or conversations. I delivered a letter from Granite State Progress and other organizations asking the Senator to host a gun violence prevention town hall – a request that has been made for the past three years and echoed by many of her constituents – and offered my assistance in pulling it together. The public is ahead of politicians on gun violence prevention measures, and Senator Ayotte needs to sit down and hear directly from her constituents even if they do not have the time or funds to travel to Washington, DC.”
Lasher-Sommers and Prince said the meeting was a cordial one. The women are members of Granite State Progress and several other organizations working to reduce gun violence. The letter they delivered is a request for Ayotte to host a town hall specifically on gun violence prevention; Granite State Progress first issued the call on April 30, 2013 after Ayotte hosted three poorly publicized town halls where moderators such as former Congressman and current State Senator Jeb Bradley publicly admitted to screening out questions regarding Sen. Ayotte’s vote against background checks and the 89% of her constituents who support them. Granite State Progress, OFA-NH, Project for Safer Communities, and other organizations have re-issued the call during August Congressional recesses since then, and Granite State Progress members additionally host periodic coffee sit-ins in the Senator’s district offices to highlight her absence and remind her of the meeting request. Americans for Responsible Solutions and the Brady Campaign joined in the call for a town hall this year. For 3 years, 4 months, and 15 days, Ayotte has refused and additionally has avoided constituents’ requests for meetings on gun violence prevention.
On Friday, New Hampshire voters were barred from an Ayotte campaign town hall because they were wearing t-shirts promoting gun violence prevention.
Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins: “Ayotte’s constituents shouldn’t have to fly to Washington, DC to talk with her about issues of national concern. We appreciate her new support to help close the terror gap just months after voting against it, but if Ayotte wants us to truly believe that she is interested in gun violence prevention and not just election year posturing she can prove it by accepting our invitation to meet with survivors of gun violence and the family members of victims, advocates, faith leaders, law enforcement officials, mental health advocates, and responsible gun owners.”