Statement on Presidential Executive Orders to Reduce Gun Violence

Biden-Harris Administration works to save lives while Gov. Chris Sununu and his Republican majorities continue to stand in the way

CONCORD, NH – President Joe Biden announced several executive orders this week aimed at reducing gun violence in America. At the same time, Gov. Chris Sununu and his Republican majorities in the New Hampshire legislature are standing in the way of common sense public safety laws.

Statement from Zandra Rice Hawkins, director of GunSense NH, a project of Granite State Progress: “Gun violence is a public health pandemic. Even when they don’t make the headlines, senseless gun tragedies take lives every day and leave lasting trauma in communities, especially communities of color. We all have the right to be safe in our homes, schools, and communities. Granite Staters agree that we need to take action to reduce gun violence, make our communities safer, and save lives. We applaud the Biden-Harris Administration for taking swift action to make our communities safer. It is frustrating that Chris Sununu and his Republican majorities in the state legislature continue to hold New Hampshire back on common sense gun safety. Right now our state is on track to allow loaded weapons on snowmobiles, target practice in town cemeteries, guns and knives in the hallways of our schools, and the expansion of deadly, racist Stand Your Ground laws that allow people to shoot first, ask questions later and avoid culpability for murder. We need a shared commitment to taking action to reduce all forms of gun violence – community violence, mass shootings, domestic violence, and suicide by firearm.”

Statement from Tracy Hahn-Burkett, convener of the Gun Violence Prevention Working Group for the Kent Street Coalition: “Last session Governor Sununu vetoed closing background check loopholes, creating a waiting period between the purchase and delivery of firearms, ensuring gun free schools, and passing an extreme risk protection order law. Governor Sununu continues to side with the corporate gun lobby instead of with the majority of Granite Staters who support common sense gun violence prevention efforts. We call on the Governor to speak up immediately and let the public know where he stands on federal and state efforts, especially as SB 154 seeks to prohibit the state from enforcing any Presidential Executive Order related to firearms, ammunition, and knives.”

The Biden-Harris Administration announced the following six initial actions:

  • The Justice Department, within 30 days, will issue a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of “ghost guns.” As more criminals buy kits to assemble firearms in as little as 30 minutes to commit crimes that cannot be traced to the weapon, this proposed rule will help stop the proliferation of these firearms.
  • The Justice Department, within 60 days, will issue a proposed rule to make clear that devices marketed as a stabilizing brace are subject to the National Firearms Act. The proposed rule will make clear that devices marketed as a stabilizing brace effectively turns a pistol into a short-barreled shotgun or rifle – making them subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act.
  • The Justice Department, within 60 days, will publish model “red flag” legislation for states. This will make it easier for states to adopt red flag laws, which let family members or law enforcement to petition for a court order temporarily barring people in crisis from accessing firearms if they present a danger to themselves or others.
  • The Justice Department will issue an annual report on firearms trafficking. The Justice Department will issue a new, comprehensive report on firearms trafficking – which hasn’t been done since 2000 – and annual updates necessary to give policymakers the information they need to help address firearms trafficking today.
  • The Administration is investing in substantive evidence-based community violence interventions – proven strategies for reducing gun violence in urban communities. Because cities across the country are experiencing a historic spike in homicides, the Biden-Harris Administration is directing five federal agencies to modify 26 programs that will route vital support to community violence intervention programs as quickly as possible. This also adds to the proposed $5 billion investment in the American Jobs Plan that will support community violence intervention programs.
  • President Biden will nominate David Chipman to serve as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). ATF is the key agency enforcing our gun laws, and it needs a permanent director in order to do the job to the best of its ability – but it has not had a confirmed director since 2015. Chipman served at ATF for 25 years, has helped investigate high profile bombings, has worked to advance commonsense gun safety laws, and is a gun owner himself.

President Biden also reiterated his calls for Congress to swiftly pass commonsense legislation to reduce gun violence supported by an overwhelming majority of the American people, including by closing loopholes in the background check system, banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, repealing gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability, and more.

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GunSense NH, a project of Granite State Progress, works to protect and advance common sense public safety laws. GunSense NH convenes the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, members include survivors, gun violence prevention advocates, moms, medical professionals, gun owners, veterans, law enforcement, elected officials, school administrators, educators, students, faith leaders, and more.

Statement on NH House Republican Passage of White Supremacy Protection Act in State Budget

Complicit Chris Sununu and His Republican Majorities in the State House Continue to Double Down on Racist, Sexist, and Antisemitic Behavior

CONCORD, NH — Today the NH House voted to keep language from HB 544, the White Supremacy Protection Act, in the state budget. The language bans state agencies, K-12 schools, public colleges and universities, and state contractors from learning about and addressing systemic racism and sexism – a critical part of overcoming barriers to a healthy and equitable community.

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“The passage of the White Supremacy Protection Act is a direct result of the failure of Complicit Chris Sununu and his Republican majorities in the State House to hold members accountable for spouting racist, antisemitic, and violent messages. For months, they have looked the other way instead of standing up for all Granite Staters. After a year of reckoning and sustained mobilization around racial injustice and as the COVID-19 public health pandemic lays bare the disproportionate health and economic impacts on people of color and women, this bill creates more hurdles to adequately responding. We cannot build a healthy and equitable community while politicians like Complicit Chris Sununu stand in the way and House Majority Leader and Free Stater Jason Osborne sponsors bills like this one.”

Background on HB 544

HB 544 is a near-carbon copy of the Trump Administration’s executive order last fall “to combat offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.” Essentially, this bill would prevent people from learning about systemic racism and sexism – creating more barriers to being able to address it. The language contradicts core public health findings, promotes a narrative that portrays diversity trainings that address racism as dangerous, is ahistorical; and is so vague that it has a foreseeable chilling effect on legitimate trainings.

Background on Complicit Chris Sununu

Granite State Progress launched ComplictChrisSununu.com earlier this year, which details how #ComplicitChris Sununu has coddled white nationalism, violent rhetoric, and extremist movements in New Hampshire. Sununu has yet to call for the resignation of State Rep. James Spillane (R-Deerfield), who encouraged violence against racial justice advocates, and State Rep. Dawn Johnson (R-Laconia), who posted racist, anti-Semitic material; nor has Complicit Chris called for the resignation of the (6) Republican State Reps who declared the State of New Hampshire terminated. Earlier this year, Sununu compared the outrage over racial discrimination last summer to the violent insurrection that took place in Washington DC. On HB 544, Sununu told media outlets he could not support it unless it was amended – a dog whistle statement on a bill that is inherently racist and sexist and cannot be amended into something otherwise.

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On Anniversary of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, NH Republicans Hold Public Hearing to Roll Back Worker Protections

CONCORD, NH – Today the NH House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee held a public hearing on SB 61, so-called Right to Work legislation which is part of a coordinated national effort to interfere in collective bargaining rights and roll back protections for workers. The hearing took place on the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, one of the deadliest industrial fires in history and a tragedy that helped spur improved factory safety standards and the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU).

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“The real purpose of right to work laws is to tilt the balance toward big corporations and further rig the system at the expense of working families. These laws make it harder for working people to form unions and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions for all workers. It is ironic that House Republicans scheduled the public hearing on the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which is a sad reminder of what happens when we do not have strong unions to advocate for safe working conditions. Particularly now, in the middle of a public health pandemic and when unions are at the front line protecting workers from egregious examples of exploitation, we do not need bills that undermine workers’ rights.”

Background on Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire is one of the deadliest industrial fires in history. On Saturday, March 25, 1911 at approximately 4:40 p.m., a fire flared up on the 8th floor. The workers of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire were almost entirely women, and mostly immigrant women. They made the equivalent today of $3.62 per hour. They worked 6 days a week, 9 hours a day. Their workplace was not firesafe and the doors were locked during work hours to keep them from leaving. Witnesses of the fire saw 62 workers jump or fall to their deaths trying to escape a building on fire, and this incident claimed the lives of 146 workers total — mostly women, and many children. The tragedy led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU), which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers.

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Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems. Visit https://granitestateprogress.org/ to learn more.

NH House Bills to Expand Deadly, Racist Stand Your Ground Law to Be Heard Feb. 5th – On What Should Be Trayvon Martin’s 26th Birthday

CONCORD, NH – The NH House Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee will hear public testimony on bills to expand a racist, deadly Stand Your Ground law on Friday, February 5th.

Stand Your Ground laws – otherwise known as “Kill at Will” – do nothing more than justify murder. As millions of Americans demand solutions to violence and racial injustice, these bills double down on the same white vigilantism that led to the murders of Trayvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery. The bills are scheduled for a public hearing on what should be Trayvon Martin’s 26th birthday.

Learn more: Stand Your Ground video with Giffords & Southern Poverty Law Center

“These laws protect white vigilantism and embolden reckless gun owners to shoot first, ask questions later, and claim self-defense to avoid culpability for murder,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, director of GunSense NH, a project of Granite State Progress. “Everyone has the right to stay alive when walking down the street or jogging in their neighborhood. Stand Your Ground laws move us in the opposite direction and we refuse to allow them to take further root here.”

WHAT:           Public Hearings on Deadly Stand Your Ground Bills

WHEN:           Friday, February 5th

12:15 PM HB 81 relative to the justified use of deadly force upon another person (related but separate bill content)

1:30 PM HB 197, relative to the use of deadly force in defense of another

2:30 PM HB 145 relative to physical force in defense of a person

WHERE:         House Criminal Justice & Public Safety

Zoom: https://www.zoom.us/j/98584313159
Phone: 1-929-205-6099
Webinar ID: 985 8431 3159

Background

New Hampshire already has a so-called “Stand Your Ground” law—giving people a license to kill when confronted with a perceived “threat” without even considering walking away or de-escalating the situation. Now, our legislators are attempting to make this dangerous law even worse with two deadly bills:

  • HB 197 would broadly expand where and when deadly force can be used, and it could be used to justify shooting at unarmed protestors.
  • HB 145 would justify the use of deadly force even in the very few circumstances where it’s currently prohibited by state law. This bill would authorize the use of deadly force even when there are safe alternatives to walk away or de-escalate, and even in cases when the shooter started the confrontation.

And a third bill, HB 81, would expand the use of deadly force in other non-life threatening situations.

Please note that House Criminal Justice and Public Safety will also hear public testimony next Wednesday, February 10th on bills to make it more difficult for municipalities, colleges and universities, and K-12 schools to keep firearms out of high traffic, public spaces – especially learning environments.

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GunSense NH, a project of Granite State Progress, works to protect and advance common sense public safety laws. GunSense NH convenes the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, members include survivors, gun violence prevention advocates, moms, medical professionals, gun owners, veterans, law enforcement, elected officials, school administrators, educators, students, faith leaders, and more.

GSP Testimony on NH Supreme Court Chief Justice Nominee Gordon MacDonald

Testimony on NH Supreme Court Chief Justice Nominee
Gordon MacDonald
Executive Council, January 21, 2021

My name is Zandra Rice Hawkins and I am the Executive Director of Granite State Progress, an advocacy organization working on issues of immediate state and local concern. I am here today to in opposition to the nomination of Gordon MacDonald for Chief Justice.

19 months ago, our organization testified during the first hearing on this nominee and raised concerns and questions that have yet to be answered in the last year and a half. Many of these concerns centered around Mr. MacDonald’s previous work in partisan positions and serving as a Board member and officer for the conservative Josiah Bartlett Center during the time in which the Bartlett Center advocated in opposition of Affordable Care Act implementation, Medicaid expansion, RGGI and renewable energy projects, and in support of school privatization, right to work, and significantly changing public pensions.

Given Mr. MacDonald’s past role here, it is important for the public to know his position on high profile issues that may very well come before the Supreme Court in the near future.

For example, what is Mr. MacDonald’s legal opinion on the intersection of government and health care? As Attorney General, Mr. MacDonald pursued a burdensome work requirement for low-income Granite Staters enrolled in Medicaid expansion, even as a similar policy in other states was struck down in the courts, and even after New Hampshire’s own law was invalidated by a federal judge. Mr. MacDonald continued to press forward to overturn precedent as recently as last August, during the middle of a public health and economic crisis when many Granite Staters were out of work and relying on Medicaid expansion for critical health coverage.

It is possible Mr. MacDonald felt obligated to waste state resources in pursuing this matter. But it does not go unnoticed that MacDonald served in the leadership of an organization that had strong opinions on this issue, and that he used the resources of his office to pursue it even after a federal judge struck it down.

In contrast, 17 other states joined together in April 2018 to defend the Affordable Care Act from attempts to undermine it in the courts. It would be nearly two years later before New Hampshire would join, after Governor Chris Sununu reportedly ‘directed” the AG’s office to join. What was Mr. MacDonald’s decision-making process that led him to delay in protecting Granite Staters’ health care, and were politics involved in the decision to join belatedly?

Mr. MacDonald testified that a Supreme Court judge must uphold the law regardless of his personal views, and that a judge needs to be fair and impartial. Since Mr. MacDonald has zero experience as a judge, and we have no previous court decisions or approaches upon which to draw conclusions about his suitability for Chief Justice, we must look at what we do know about Mr. MacDonald.

As Attorney General, MacDonald Reversed Office’s Position on SB 193,

School Voucher Bill Despite Clear Unconstitutionality

One clear example is Mr. MacDonald’s decision as Attorney General to reverse the department’s position on SB 193, a bill designed to divert public taxpayer dollars to private and religious schools in the form of school vouchers, despite its clear unconstitutionality.

Twice in April 2017 – immediately before MacDonald took over as Attorney General – the AG’s Office testified that “there are two provisions in the New Hampshire Constitution … that say that tax dollars cannot be used in New Hampshire to support schools of sectarian organizations.”

However, in December 2017, the AG’s Office sent a two-sentence email to the Speaker of the House opining that SB193 was constitutional – and referenced a discussion with Attorney General MacDonald.

The NH ACLU and several editorial boards questioned that judgement, citing that SB193 directly violated the NH Constitution and NH Supreme Court precedent restricting the use of public funds for religious schools. The criticism also noted that the email to the House Speaker was done outside of the normal avenue for legal opinions from the Attorney General’s office and was a reversal from the position the Attorney General’s office took in the time period before MacDonald took office.  (InDepthNH, 1.2.18; Valley News, 1.16.18, Concord Monitor, 1.4.18)

The Concord Monitor editorial stated, (quote) “It will be up to the state Supreme Court to decide which opinion is correct should the bill become law. State efforts to direct public funds to private schools, including religious schools, are being promoted nationally by school choice advocacy organizations.” (end quote)

Gordon MacDonald, of course, had served in leadership of just such an organization. It’s worth noting that a lawsuit is currently underway in New Hampshire on this very topic. If confirmed, does Mr. MacDonald plan to recuse himself from this case, and others like it that he has worked on?

As Attorney General, Mr. MacDonald did not recuse himself. Instead, he provided a contradictory legal opinion that overturned his office’s position, generating a new position in line with a special interest group on which he had served.

MacDonald Has Questionable Record on Reproductive Rights

Unfortunately, there are not isolated examples.

Mr. MacDonald stated that his personal opinions on reproductive rights – which he opposes – have no bearing on his ability to serve as a NH Supreme Court judge. But his track record as Attorney General shows that he does pick and choose which issues he advocates around, and that those positions tend to fall in line with his own past political involvement and beliefs.

Mr. MacDonald did not join the federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Trump Administration’s “domestic gag rule” altering the Title X family planning program. 21 other State Attorney Generals worked together to protect women’s health coverage, but not Gordon MacDonald.

It is not unreasonable to ask whether this track record is part of why Governor Chris Sununu was willing to hold this seat open for nearly two years in order to confirm Mr. MacDonald, or why Mr. MacDonald himself did not proactively withdraw his nomination in order to ensure our state’s highest court could run smoothly and fully seated.

But our last critique today may be our most important given what has happened in our country over the last week.

The violent insurrection that played out in Washington DC last week did not come out of the blue, and our forefathers put in safeguards to try to prevent us from getting to this dangerous place. But as Attorney General, Gordon MacDonald failed in his duty to follow the Constitution and enforce state law.

For months, MacDonald looked the other way as heavily armed militias – domestic terrorists – agitating for a second civil war openly recruited and organized in front of our State House. These paramilitary members posted disturbing memes that discussed making command detonators and conducting raids on public leaders, and some of its members were arrested in upstate New York last summer with AR-15’s, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and a tactical militia manual.

The New Hampshire Constitution forbids armed militias outside of state authority, stating: “[i]n all cases, and at all times, the military ought to be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.” (N.H. Const. pt. 1, art. XXVI). New Hampshire law also prohibits private military units, making it illegal for groups of people to organize as private militias without permission from the state. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 111:15)

Gordon MacDonald took no action here, nor when elected members of the NH State House seditiously declared both our elections and the State of New Hampshire terminated; nor did he use the power of his office to push back on the seditious Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn American election results, even as other AG’s rose to the defense of our democracy.

Why didn’t Mr. MacDonald vigorously uphold our Constitution and state laws? As Attorney General, he was in a position to affect real change here. The fact that he didn’t should concern all of us.

In Closing: We Oppose

In closing, we oppose the nomination of Gordon MacDonald. Our organization is willing to provide documentation for anything cited here today, and we urge the Executive Council to take the time to look into each of these issues before moving forward. Thank you.