Group Eyes Ayotte for Gun Laws

Gun Safety Advocates Seek Tighter Rules

Concord — U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., is the top target in a new push to strengthen federal laws that keep domestic abusers from purchasing guns.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a national advocacy group, has been airing an ad on WMUR this week to coincide with a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on a new bill introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat. The bill aims to tighten federal laws to ensure that those with a domestic violence conviction lose their rights to purchase guns. A hearing on the bill Wednesday featured personal stories about gun violence from across the country, including perspectives from two New Hampshire residents. It was also the first ever hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that linked guns and domestic violence.

The group’s ad features a harrowing scene of a woman calling 911 from inside a house as a man comes in and grabs a child. The camera cuts off as he fires a shot at the woman. The ad tells viewers to “stop gun violence against women” by providing a number to text. It does not give any information about domestic violence hotlines or specific legislation.

Ayotte will review the legislation, spokeswoman Liz Johnson said. Johnson also noted Ayotte’s previous efforts to provide protections for women against violence and said Ayotte fully supports a new New Hampshire law that makes domestic violence a specific crime, known as Joshua’s Law.

“Senator Ayotte has worked throughout her career to stop domestic violence and protect women from being victimized,” Johnson said in an email. “She co-sponsored legislation in the Senate to renew the landmark Violence Against Women act, and she helped lead the effort to secure its passage.”

Everytown is an umbrella organization for Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action. New Hampshire’s chapter was active in pushing for a bill to expand background checks that did not pass in the state Legislature this session, and it has been active in efforts to get stores such as Target to stop allowing customers to openly carry firearms in their stores. Most recently, after a mass shooting in Santa Barbara, Calif., the group delivered 4,200 “Not one more” cards to Ayotte’s local office.

“We just keep seeing that every time there’s another mass shooting other people reach out to get involved,” said Janet Groat, president of the group’s New Hampshire’s chapter.

The ad is airing in Washington, D.C., New Hampshire, Arizona and Nevada. In Arizona and Nevada, the campaign is targeting those states’ respective Republican senators — Jeff Flake and Dean Heller. On Wednesday, former U.S. representative Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head in a shooting in Arizona in 2011, called on Ayotte to support the bill. Ayotte was seen as a key swing vote in a push last year to strengthen the background check system after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. That amendment would have required background checks for gun shows and internet sales, in addition to the check requirement for purchases from federally licensed gun dealers. Ayotte ultimately voted against it, and instead backed an amendment aimed at encouraging states to submit mental health records to the federal background checks system, according to an analysis by PolitiFact.

Klobuchar’s bill would make it illegal for anyone convicted of domestic violence or stalking to purchase a firearm.

New Hampshire passed a bill this year that strengthens the state’s domestic violence laws, and Everytown is pointing to that bill as a model of domestic violence legislation, even though it was not specifically about guns. The bill, called Joshua’s Law, was introduced in response to a murder-suicide in Manchester, N.H., last year, where a man named Muni Savyon shot his son Joshua and then himself during a supervised visit at a YWCA.

Under previous New Hampshire law, domestic violence was not its own crime. Instead, someone who hit his or her spouse would be charged with simple assault. Joshua’s Law reorganized the existing criminal law to make domestic violence its own category. Advocates for the bill, including the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said the bill would help the police and courts better identify pattern abusers and respond. Ninety-two percent of murder-suicides in New Hampshire are domestic violence related, according to the coalition.

This bill relates to guns because it streamlines the system to ensure firearms stay out of the hands of domestic abusers. Not characterizing crimes as domestic violence before led to some instances in which people convicted of nondomestic violence assaults were denied gun purchases. One thing Joshua’s Law doesn’t do is require stalking convictions to be entered into the federal background check system. If the Klobuchar bill passes, stalking convictions would prohibit people from purchasing guns.

Joshua’s Law unanimously passed the Republican-led state Senate and passed with all but three votes in the Democratic-led House. Gov. Maggie Hassan signed it June 19.

“Senator Ayotte fully supports existing New Hampshire law that allows a court to order a person who is the subject of a domestic violence order to relinquish firearms and ammunition. And she also fully supports the recently enacted-Joshua’s Law, making domestic violence a separate category of crime and incorporating stalking into the list of domestic violence crimes,” Johnson, Ayotte’s spokeswoman, said.