• Advertisement

Granite State Progress Renews Call For Senator Ayotte To Host Town Hall On Gun Violence Prevention

477 Days and Counting: Advocates Renew Call for Sen. Ayotte to Host Town Hall Specifically on Gun Violence Prevention

It’s been 16 months since Sen. Ayotte voted against criminal background checks and 477 days since she first refused to meet with New Hampshire gun violence prevention advocates

CONCORD, NH – Gun violence prevention advocates are renewing the call for U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte to host a town hall or forum specifically dedicated to the pressing issue of reducing gun violence. It’s been 477 days since the request was first issued and Senator Ayotte’s office has still refused to sit down and meet.

“Constituents have made phone calls, sent letters, signed petitions, and invited the Senator to coffee, but Senator Ayotte has repeatedly denied meeting requests from gun violence prevention advocates ever since she voted against background checks and the 89 percent of her constituents who support them,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director, Granite State Progress. “We renew our call for Senator Ayotte to host a town hall solely focused on gun violence prevention. In the sixteen months since Senator Ayotte voted against common sense background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill, more shootings and more national tragedies have occurred. Senator Ayotte needs to stop hiding behind NRA lobby talking points and meet directly with her constituents. She has a responsibility as a U.S. Senator to participate in open town halls on these important topics instead of cherry-picking the issues she wants to discuss.”

In a letter to Senator Ayotte, Granite State Progress renewed the call for a town hall on gun violence prevention that would include participation from survivors of gun violence and the family members of victims, in addition to gun violence prevention advocates, faith leaders, law enforcement officials, mental health advocates, and responsible gun owners.  Members of the organization are being asked to contact the Senator and call on her to engage in a community conversation about how we can work together to protect more children and families.

Background: In April 2013, Senator Ayotte voted against the Manchin-Toomey background check bill – the only bill that would have required background checks for commercial gun sales and improved the background check system. Instead, Senator Ayotte voted for an amendment created by the gun lobby and sponsored by Senators Chuck Grassley and Ted Cruz that would actually weaken the system and put more guns in the hands of the seriously mentally ill. Ayotte’s public approval ratings plummeted after her vote.

Granite State Progress first issued the call for a town hall specifically on gun violence prevention 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, and Project for Safer Communities re-issued the call during the August 2013 Congressional recess, and Granite State Progress members additionally held coffee sit-ins in the Senator’s district offices to highlight her absence. Sen. Ayotte responded with a generic form letter stating she would hold general town halls later in the year – but for 16 months has ignored constituent requests for a conversation on gun violence prevention.

In contrast, during the national health reform debate in the Summer of ‘09, the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation held town halls specifically focused on the pending health reform legislation – also an issue of national debate and interest.

AFT President Randi Weingarten Honors Newtown

Washington—AFT President Randi Weingarten honors Newtown, Conn., on the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The AFT represents the educators and school staff in Newtown.

“The pain and tragedy of what happened last year on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School will never be forgotten. But in that tragedy, we saw angels—educators who dedicated their lives to helping our children reach for the stars—give their lives in the service of our children.

“Our instinct as educators and school staff is to love and protect our children. We saw that on last Dec. 14. We know these stories by heart: The teacher who sheltered her students in a closet with only her body and a thin door between them and the shooter. The teacher who led her kids into a bathroom where many were able to escape the danger. The custodian who risked his life trying to keep ahead of the gunman, rushing through the halls to make sure all the classroom doors were locked. The teachers who tried to hide their children any place they could until the police came.

“It’s what I witnessed when I met with educators following the massacre—in this incredible moment of grief, these educators were worried first about how they would be able to create a sense of normalcy and support for their students. And it’s what I saw when I visited every Newtown school when they reopened, where the priority of teachers was to ensure their classrooms were safe, nurturing environments so their children could get back to learning. It was their collective strength and love, matched with the support of parents and the community, that pieced together shattered hearts, healed souls and helped overcome the horror of that day.

“Today we remember the 26 children and educators we lost, and we must recommit ourselves to ensure that every school is a safe sanctuary for our children. Today we honor Newtown and choose love.”

One Year After Newtown And I Am Still Angry

Author’s Note: Some of you may be wondering what is a labor union advocate doing talking about gun control and Sandy Hook.  The answer is simple.  I have three children who attend an elementary school just like Sandy Hook.  I would also like to point out that two of the largest labor unions in New Hampshire are the teachers unions (NEA-NH and AFT-NH).

One year ago we all were stunned by the horrific event at a little elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.  This tragic event that took the lives of twenty innocent school children, and six brave educators.   As Adam Lanza entered the school, with guns blazing he managed to fire over 150 rounds from his mother semi-automatic rifle with 30 round magazines.

The day after the shooting the American Federation of Teachers released this short video honoring the brave educators who sacrificed their lives to protect the children in their care.

That day, and every day since, people have been asking ‘what are we going to do about Newtown’?  For the first weeks that followed the shooting, people across the country were up in arms and calling on Congress to pass sweeping gun reforms.  A completely organic grassroots organization called ‘Moms Demand Action’ started pushing for background checks and smaller magazines on all weapons sales.

MomsDemandAction_Logo-375x300The argument quickly became a fight between common sense, and the National Rifle Association.   Across the country labor unions and other groups like Moms Demand Action, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and Americans for Responsible Solutions (Gabby and Mark Giffords PAC) began an all out war with the NRA right on the steps of the Capitol.

“We demand a vote, Gabby Giffords demands a vote” cried President Obama during his State of The Union address.  As every day passed more pressure was being put on Congress to pass the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act, commonly referred to as the background check bill.  A bill that would require background check on all gun sales, closing the loophole that allows people to buy guns without a background check at gun shows and on the internet.  The bill also placed a limit on the size of magazines, and ultimately pushed for a ban on all assault rifles.

Momentum and public support grew every single day leading up to the vote.  People overwhelmingly supported background check on all gun sales.  The court of public opinion was completely against the NRA, who led the charge to kill the bill.

The bill failed to break the 60-vote threshold (54-46) to overcome the Republican Filibuster.  The vote was strictly down party lines except for one stray Republican (John McCain) who voted with Democrats to pass the bill to strengthen the background check system.  (Note: four Democratic Senators voted against the bill: Baucus (D-MT), Begich (D-AK), Heitkamp (D-ND), Pryor (D-AR))

After the Senate failed to pass the Safe Communities, Safer Schools Act people became even more outraged. Demand Action – a campaign by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns — started calling out every single Senator who voted against the bill with ads like this.

SHAME ON YOU KELLY Even after the failed vote teachers unions and educators continued to speak out for stronger gun laws.  The American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told the crowd at a Netroots Nation event, “I am glad to be on the list of people they (NRA) hate.

The National Rifle Association even floated the idea that we should arm teachers with guns, because ‘the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.’  Many people, including myself thought that was just too much.  We are trying to keep the guns out of our schools and the NRA wants every teacher to be packing heat.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia completely rejected this idea of arming teachers.  Lily represents over three million educators nationwide.  As she phrased it, “People that would put our children, teachers, and janitors at risk do not deserve their office.”

AFT Remember Newtown via AFT Facebook page

AFT Remember Newtown via AFT Facebook page

Here we are, one year later, and what have we accomplished?  What have we done to stop the carnage of gun violence in America?  The Boston Globe reports:

A Law Center scorecard shows that 18 states weakened their gun restrictions in 2013, 11 states and the District of Columbia strengthened them, and 10 states passed a combination. Both sides in the gun debate, however, manage to find hopeful signs in that tally.”

Where is that outrage that we all felt last December 14th as we were all forced to see the images of teachers and children running away from the Sandy Hook Elementary School, or the images of the twenty children and six heroic teachers who we will never see again.   Where is that outrage now as the majority of the nation has yet to see any change in our gun laws?

As of today (12-13-13) there have been 11,436 or more gun related deaths since Newtown.  (Check out SLATE.COM’s most amazing interactive graphic that continues to update with the names and locations of gun related deaths since Newtown.)  This number does not include the thousands of people who commit suicide every year.  The CDC estimates that 33,000 people will die in gun related deaths this year.

The group Moms Demand Action released a statement along with a very powerful advertisement calling for an end to the ‘silence’.   Moms Demand Action are hosting ‘end the silence’ rallies all across the country to make the plea that we do not need more moments of silence, we need stronger gun laws to prevent these types of tragedies.

“One year ago, 20 beautiful children and six brave teachers and administrators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in a tragedy that is still impossible to comprehend,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein. “On that morning, a deranged killer shot his way into what should have been a safe place, with an assault weapon and enough high-capacity ammunition magazines to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. The massacre was the product, in large part, of our nation’s weak gun laws—laws that allow military-style assault weapons to be sold legally and that permit criminals and domestic abusers to easily obtain weapons at gun shows and over the Internet without a background check.”

Since Newtown there has been at least 20 different schools shooting claiming the lives of dozens of innocent people.  When will it stop? When will Congress wake up and do what is right for public safety?  I refuse to let this be another flash in the pan that fizzles out after time.  I hope that this one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Newtown reignites the fire we once had to effect much needed changes in our gun laws.  I am also proud of the labor leaders like Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen Garcia who using their positions as labor leaders to continue to fight for stronger and more effective gun laws.

* * * * * * *

For those in the New Hampshire area here, is a list of some of the Newtown Anniversary events going on throughout the weekend.

Related articles on the NH Labor News:

AFT President Randi Weingarten Honors Newtown (2013)

When Tragedy Strike, Heroes Emerge. In Sandy Hook, The Educators Are The Heroes

Teachers’ Unions Make A Call For Common Sense Gun Reform


Granite State Progress Wants Sen. Ayotte To Hold Town Hall Meeting Specifically On Gun Violence

Sen. Ayotte refused to acknowledge the family member of Sandy Hook victim, or to answer constituents about her vote against gun violence prevention; Granite State Progress calling for Sen. Ayotte to host town hall specifically on gun violence prevention

TILTON, NH – Just one day after community members rallied at the State Capitol calling on U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte to answer directly why she sided with the NRA lobby over the 89 percent of her constituents who support background checks, Ayotte refused to explain her vote at a town hall and her campaign team even limited questions on the topic. Ayotte also chose not to acknowledge the daughter of a Sandy Hook victim who attended the event.

Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins issued the following statement:

“We are ashamed of Senator Ayotte’s actions today just like we are ashamed of the vote she took against commonsense gun violence prevention measures. If the family of a victim of any other national tragedy had been present, Senator Ayotte would have acknowledged them. Senator Ayotte is afraid to talk about her vote against gun violence prevention, because it was also a vote against 89% of her constituents. It is clear from her under-publicized town halls and refusal to engage in real conversation that she thinks her constituents will just forget about her vote.”

“We are here to tell her that’s not true. New Hampshire is a pro-gun state, but it is also a pro-gun safety state. We call on Senator Ayotte to host a town hall solely focused on gun violence prevention and explain in full why she sided with the NRA lobby over constituents.”

During the Tilton town hall, staff of Granite State Progress called out for Ayotte to answer questions about her vote after she dodged the sole question she took on the topic. The Granite State Progress staff was sitting directly behind Erica Lafferty, the daughter of the Sandy Hook school principal killed protecting children in December, when the Senator refused to answer. After Ms. Lafferty left in disgust, Granite State Progress stood up with signs that read “Shame on You.”

Gun Violence Prevention Advocates Rally at State Capitol; “Shame on Sen. Ayotte” for Siding with NRA Lobby Over Granite State Constituents

Community members and advocates take Sen. Ayotte to task on recent votes, call on her to answer for her vote at three town halls scheduled for this week. 

Press conference wide view

CONCORD, NH – More than thirty community members participated in a press conference at the State Capitol today to highlight opposition to U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte’s recent votes against gun violence prevention, and to call on her to answer during her three upcoming town halls this week why she sided with the NRA lobby over constituents.

A New England College poll earlier this year confirmed that Granite Staters overwhelming support stronger gun violence prevention measures – with nearly 9 in 10 supporting criminal background checks for every gun sale – but Sen. Ayotte voted against the popular provision and constituents this month. Public Policy Polling released numbers last week that found Sen. Ayotte is facing serious backlash over her vote against commonsense background checks, a sentiment echoed by letters to the editor and editorial pages across the state – and soon to be seen at town halls this week.

Speakers at the press conference made the case for urgent and swift action to prevent more gun violence in our communities, and called on Senator Ayotte to answer why she is blocking efforts to do so. They vowed that gun violence prevention advocates would turn out for the Senator’s three town halls this week to demand answers (RSVP to the town hall in Tilton). Here are some of the statements from today’s event:

Judy Stadtman is a co-founder of NH Project for Safer Communities. She lives in Portsmouth with her husband and two children.

“It seems that Senator Ayotte needs a reminder that New Hampshire is not just a ‘pro-gun’ state – it is also a ‘pro-gun safety’ state. A full 89 percent of Granite State residents support expanded background checks as a moderate, commonsense measure to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. By voting against bi-partisan compromise legislation to require expanded background checks, Senator Ayotte chose to take sides with gun lobbyists who want to weaken federal and state guns laws so that virtually anyone can buy any kind of gun with no questions asked, and carry it in every public place in America. That’s not in line with the views of responsible, mainstream gun owners, who overwhelmingly support expanded background checks, and it’s not in line with mainstream New Hampshire values.” – Judy Stadtman, co-founder of NH Project for Safer Communities

Judy Stadtman and Rep Steve Shurloff

Judy Stadtman and Rep Steve Shurtleff

Rep. Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook) is a Retired Deputy U.S. Marshall and current NH House Majority Leader.

“As a former teacher and a member of law enforcement my heart breaks every time I think about these terrible tragedies. We must act to protect our communities in New Hampshire and across the country.   And we must do it without delay.  Too much is at stake. That is why I was very disappointed with the vote in the US Senate last week – these were bipartisan compromise bills focused on the very basic commonsense steps we can take to reduce gun violence. I have been told that New Hampshire’s own Senator Ayotte is holding several public town hall meetings this week. I commend her for that. Anytime you vote contrary to the opinion of 90% of your constituents it is important to honestly and personally explain why you did so. I sincerely hope – and without any partisan feelings here at all – that she offers that kind of an explanation this week.  It is clear that the people of New Hampshire are looking for one, are expecting one, and deserve one.” – Rep. Steve Shurtleff, Retired Deputy U.S. Marshall

Bill Kingston is a retired airline pilot, combat veteran, gun owner, NRA member and one of the founders of New Castle Promise (modeled after Sandy Hook Promise). He lives in New Castle with his family.

“Let me tell you about your constituents here in New Hampshire, Sen. Ayotte. We are disgusted at the epidemic of violence that has swept this country. A full 89 percent of us support expanded background checks to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. We are horrified that the Constitution of the country we fought for – myself in Vietnam – has been so twisted and tortured by the likes of Wayne LaPierre and the gun manufacturers he represents, and that you and other Senators are willing to go along with it. Responsible gun owners understand that what our Constitution says is that all of our rights have limitations. The First Amendment doesn’t give you the right to yell fire in a crowded theater and the Second Amendment does not give criminals the right to buy guns. Nor was it written to promote this paranoid fantasy that somehow we need to arm ourselves against a possibly hostile government. As a U.S. combat veteran, this sounds to me a lot like sedition. Of course, Sen. Ayotte – not wanting to sound crazy – did not talk about armed uprising when she tried to explain her inexplicable vote to make us less safe in our homes and our beds and our streets and our communities. Sen. Ayotte offered some garbled explanation about how the rights of law abiding gun owners might be infringed upon – total baloney, we all know. When she saw her poll numbers slip as a result she then did an interview where she offered some barely comprehensible talking point about protecting licensed gun dealers. I am here to say enough with all of that Sen. Ayotte. You can protect licensed dealers, and our children and yes, even your own political career, by standing up for what’s right and fixing our gun laws. It’s time to do the right thing.” – Bill Kingston, New Castle Promise

Rabbi Robin Nafshi serves at the Temple Beth Jacob in Concord.


“In Judaism, safety is a religious concern. Torah states: “When you build a … house, you shall make a parapet (or fence) for your roof, so that you do not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone should fall from it.”  In other words, you are required to properly gate a roof, in order to prevent people from falling off. The later rabbis site this verse to issue a general directive requiring a person to remove or correct any safety hazard,  or do whatever is possible to maximize community safety. More specifically, those rabbis ruled that Jewish law prohibits someone from selling offensive weapons to suspected criminals. We know that the overwhelming majority of Americans – and Granite Staters —  support these efforts as well. There is no sane reason to opposed background checks for all gun buyers, including those who purchase at gun shows and from private sellers, not just for those who buy from a federal firearms license holder, as the law currently states. After the shootings in Newtown this past year, a sixth grader in our religious said to me, “Rabbi, we expect kids in high school and middle school to be faced with gun violence. But elementary school? How horrible.” I turned to her and said, “What kind of a world have we adults given you where you expect to face gun violence at school? I’m so sorry. We have failed you. We have failed you.” And our elected representatives have failed us. Background checks have saved, do save, and will continue to save lives. They must be expanded.” – Rabbi Robin Nafshi

1 http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2013/04/ayotte-faces-backlash-over-gun-vote.html

2 http://www.nec.edu/news/nh-voters-want-gun-restrictions-new-england-college-poll-shows-overwhelming-support-for-tougher-laws

Gun Rally 4-29-13 GSP

“We say no…”

For most Christians, today marks Good Friday. It also marks 105 days since the deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Earlier this Holy Week, hundreds of people walked and prayed from the White House to the Capitol in a traditional “Way of the Cross” liturgy. The group, which included more than 20 Episcopal bishops, remembered those whose lives have been taken by guns and challenged a culture of violence.

This short video of their walk is worth watching.

The gun control legislation proposed by President Obama in the wake of the Newtown shootings now faces threats of a Senate filibuster.


Statement From Laura Hainey, President Of AFT-NH On Newtown Shootings

Laura Hainey on the Tragedy in Newtown, Ct.
President, American Federation of Teachers-NH

Bow, NH-  Statement on the tragedy in Newtown, Ct. by AFT-NH President Laura Hainey.

AFT-NH extends its deepest sympathy and condolences to all those affected by the unthinkable tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and with our colleagues at Sandy Hook Elementary School who have experienced this senseless tragedy.

“AFT-NH is the State Affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. The AFT has over one million members with nearly 4,000 members here in New Hampshire.   These members are teachers, school support staff, police, higher education faculty and town employees. AFT-NH is a member of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO which represents over 45,000 working men and women.”

  • Subscribe to the NH Labor News via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 12,541 other subscribers

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement