Preventable Gun Violence Tragedy in Tennessee Underscores Urgency of Passing Gun Violence Prevention Policies Across U.S., Including New Hampshire

With weaker gun laws than Tennessee, inaction is no longer an option for New Hampshire’s people and policymakers 

CONCORD, NH – On Monday morning, three 9 year old students and three staff were shot dead at the Covenant Grade School in Nashville, TN. This is America’s 90th school shooting this year per the K-12 School Shooting Database. And according to the Gun Violence Archive, there have already been 129 mass shootings so far this year. The Tennessee shooter, who was a former student and armed with two assault-style rifles and a handgun, was shot dead by the police. 

It is once again more clear that we, as a country, are failing to protect our children’s lives. It’s also clear that state gun safety laws matter. Tennessee has some of the weakest gun laws in the country and tragically high rates of gun violence – according to Everytown’s gun law ranking platform, Tennessee scores only 16.5 out of 100 for gun law strength. Tennessee has no laws regulating the purchase and possession of assault weapons. In an average year, 1,385 people die by guns in Tennessee and the rate of gun homicide increased 110% in the last 10 years (2012-2021). Guns are now the leading cause of death among Tennessee children and teens. Despite the lives taken on a daily basis in Tennessee, state lawmakers have only continued to tear down existing gun safety protections. That’s unacceptable. 

“With gun laws even weaker than Tennessee’s, New Hampshire lawmakers must take action before a school or community in our state makes national headlines due to tragedy,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, director of GunSense NH, a project of Granite State Progress. “Now more than ever, our state leaders must do their part to address the epidemic of gun violence that continues to harm our communities and our futures.” 

The failure of Congress to pass more meaningful gun safety legislation has resulted in record-high deaths from firearms. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for children and teens for the last two years — and a largely preventable one. While Congress and too many New Hampshire state legislators continue to protect the powerful gun lobby and uniquely unregulated gun industry, we are failing to protect our most vulnerable and precious citizens. 

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Statement on NH House Vote on HB 351, Safe Storage of Firearms

HB 351 promotes safe storage of firearms to protect children and communities; it is the latest gun violence prevention bill to be shot down by the Republican-led NH state legislature this year, stifling progress to create safer communities and save lives

CONCORD, NH – Today, the NH House voted 203-182 to indefinitely postpone HB 351, which would have held irresponsible gun owners accountable for the negligent storage of firearms that resulted in a firearms death or injury by a child. 

“Our children deserve to grow up in safe homes and communities where guns and ammunition are properly stored,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, director of GunSense NH, a project of Granite State Progress. “When children have easy, unsupervised access to firearms, it increases the risk of injury or death. Responsible gun owners do not leave firearms improperly stored around young children. GunSense NH condemns the House vote against safe storage of firearms.”

Background: HB 351 promoted safe storage of firearms to protect children and communities, and expanded criminal penalties for negligent storage of firearms. Secure storage keeps firearms out of the wrong hands and can play a critical role in preventing firearm deaths, which are the leading cause of death for children and teens nationally. It also protects young children from the horrible experience of potentially harming themselves or someone else. New Hampshire is not immune to stories of young children harming themselves or others due to negligent storage of firearms and ammunition.

  • In 2016, a 10 year old in Durham shot and killed himself in front of a 6 year old relative during a school snow delay

Members of the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition released the following statements:   

Tracy Hahn-Burkett, member of the Kent Street Coalition Leadership Team and a member of the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition: “Safe storage bills are supported by responsible, law abiding gun owners. They offer additional protection for children and save gun owners from the horror, and the liability, that is a risk whenever an unsecured firearm falls into the hands of a child.”

Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath, Executive Director of NH Council of Churches and a member of the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition: “Gun violence is not just a policy issue, it is a moral, ethical and a theological issue as well. Our societies are only as strong as we care for our children, and when we put our children in unsafe situations where they can cause irreparable harm to themselves or others, we have failed.”

Jonathan Weinberg, a campaign organizer with GunSense NH, a project of Granite State Progress, and a former March for Our Lives student leader inspired by the student response to the Parkland shooting: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each day in America 8 children and teens are injured or killed in shootings involving an improperly stored or misused gun found in the home. This common sense bill is the bare minimum legislators could have done to prevent the death and harm of children, and to keep young children from the horrible experience of causing those tragedies.”

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NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition Statement on President Biden’s Executive Order on Gun Safety Measures

 A new executive order by President Biden tightens background check laws and increases support for extreme risk protection orders to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or others, along with efforts to hold the gun industry accountable and address the marketing of firearms to minors

CONCORD, NH – Yesterday, in Monterey Park, California, President Biden announced an Executive Order with the goal of increasing the number of background checks conducted before firearm sales, moving the U.S. as close to universal background checks as possible without additional legislation. The Executive Order also seeks to keep more guns out of dangerous hands by increasing the effective use of extreme risk protection orders or “red flag” laws, strengthen efforts to hold the gun industry accountable, and accelerate law enforcement efforts to identify and apprehend the shooters harming our communities. President Biden is also encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to issue a public report analyzing how gun manufacturers market firearms to minors. 

Read more details on this Executive Order here.

Members of the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition released the following statements:

Zandra Rice Hawkins, director of GunSense NH, a project of Granite State Progress, and a member of the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition: “Every day our communities deal with gun violence, and each of us needs to do our part to improve public safety by keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals, promoting responsible gun ownership, holding the gun industry accountable, and keeping high capacity weapons off our streets and out of our schools. We applaud President Biden for taking decisive action to reduce gun violence in our country, and we call on Congress and our state leaders to do their part to address the epidemic of gun violence that continues to harm our communities and our futures.”

State Representative Amy Bradley, prime sponsor of HB 106, relative to extreme risk protection orders and a member of the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition: “Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) are a bipartisan policy that temporarily removes firearms from those with a dangerous pattern of behavior and access to firearms, before they can pose a danger to themselves or others. It is a smart proactive policy that saves lives, particularly for those at risk of suicide. We applaud President Biden’s efforts to encourage awareness of ERPO laws, especially given how effective they have been.”

State Representative David Meuse, prime sponsor of HB 351, relative to negligent storage of firearms and a member of the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition: “Safe storage bills are supported by responsible, law abiding gun owners. They offer additional protection for children and save gun owners from the horror, and the liability, that is a risk whenever an unsecured firearm falls into the hands of a child. President Biden’s actions for gun safety today will prevent tragic deaths tomorrow.”

State Senator Debra Altschiller, prime sponsor of SB 247, relative to blanket immunity for gun manufacturers and a member of the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition: “For far too long, the gun industry has received blanket immunity to continue practices that harm our families and our communities. No other industry with such a record of harm has been allowed to exact fear and death in our country without accountability. President Biden’s efforts to hold gun manufacturers accountable for marketing to children and other harmful practices is an important step towards ensuring the gun industry takes responsibility for their role in reducing gun violence.”

Deidre Reynolds, Moms Demand Action member and member of the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition: “Requiring background checks whenever a person purchases a firearm is a foundational life-saving gun safety measure that can reduce gun violence and save lives. We applaud President Biden for prioritizing the safety of our communities and we look forward to working with the Administration, our local lawmakers, and fellow gun safety champions to ensure that this common-sense gun safety law is being fully and effectively implemented throughout our state.”  

Heidi Carrington Heath, Executive Director of NH Council of Churches and a member of the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition: “Gun violence is not just a policy issue, it is a moral, ethical and a theological issue as well. Our societies are only as strong as we care for our children, and when our children leave home and parents have to worry on a daily basis that they will be gunned down and not return home, something is very wrong. The executive order by President Biden provides an opportunity for safer communities, so that families can live and grow together.”

Tracy Hahn-Burkett, member of the Kent Street Coalition Leadership Team and a member of the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition: “Parents and grandparents are tired of fearing for their children’s lives when they drop their kids off at school. People are tired of fearing for their lives in grocery stores, at concerts — anywhere in public. In a country where gun violence has become the leading cause of death for youth, the common-sense steps of background checks, extreme risk protection orders and accountability measures are critical to ensure the safety of the American public, and we applaud the Administration for taking these steps.”

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The NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition has worked together for the last decade to protect and advance common sense public safety laws. Members include gun violence prevention advocates, moms, medical professionals, gun owners, veterans, law enforcement, elected officials, school administrators, educators, students, and faith leaders, and organizations representing various constituencies.  The coalition is convened by GunSense NH, a project of Granite State Progress.

NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition Statement Following House Votes on Background Checks, Gun Free Schools, Extreme Risk Protection Orders, and Partial State Nullification

HB 59 would close background check loopholes, HB 32 keeps guns out of our schools, HB 106 passes an extreme risk protection order, and HB 78 repeals Sununu’s partial state nullification bill from last session

CONCORD, NH – Today the NH House voted to defeated a package of gun violence prevention bills to close background check loopholes, keep guns out of our schools, create an extreme risk protection order – a bipartisan policy that temporarily removes firearms from those who are a danger to themselves or others, and a repeal bill to overturn Governor Chris Sununu’s partial state nullification bill from last year that makes it harder for communities to respond swiftly to the threat of gun violence. At the same time, the House voted against a gun lobby effort to expand the state nullification law and enforce strong penalties for it.

“In the past year, we witnessed the senseless murders in Uvalde, Buffalo, Monterey Park, Michigan State, and so many other communities, and these are only the gun tragedies that make the national news,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, director of GunSense NH, a project of Granite State Progress. “Every day our communities deal with gun violence, and each of us needs to do our part to improve public safety by keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals, promoting responsible gun ownership, holding the gun lobby and industry accountable, and keeping high capacity weapons off our streets and out of our schools. We condemn the votes against public safety in the State House. Every single legislator who voted against these measures is responsible for the epidemic of gun violence that continues to harm our communities and our futures.”

The NH House voted against HB 59, closing background check loopholes 197-175; HB 32, keeping guns out of our schools 199-174; HB 106, creating an extreme risk protection order, 198-172; and HB 78, repealing Sununu’s partial state nullification bill from last session, 200-173. In better news, the NH House also voted in the consent calendar to defeat HB 474, a gun lobby bill to further expand state nullification of firearms laws and enforce strong penalties around it.

Members of the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition released the following statements:   

State Rep. David Meuse, a member of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition: “It was a bad day for New Hampshire supporters of bills to reduce the risk of gun violence, but a worse day for public safety. Guns do not belong in the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or others, and our families and children should be able to go to the park or attend school without the fear of gun violence. We remain committed to urgent action to reduce gun violence in our nation.”

State Rep. Amy Bradley, prime sponsor of Extreme Risk Protection Orders and a member of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition: “The majority of Granite Staters support passing long-overdue, common sense gun violence prevention measures in New Hampshire. We must do everything in our power to turn back the seemingly endless cycle of tragedy, “thoughts and prayers,” and inaction or doubling down on policies that enable guns in the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or others.”

State Rep. Loren Selig (D-Durham), a member of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition: “This issue is simple, we do not need firearms in our schools. While federal law establishes ‘gun free school zones’ for the conduct of students, gaps in state law allow for members of the public to bring firearms onto school campuses, jeopardizing the safety of our kids, their teachers, and school resource officers. The tragic reality is there have been over 100 mass shootings already in 2023. My own children now instinctively look for hiding places and easy exits when they should be focused on their learning. As a parent, worrying that my kids will be traumatized by violence, or worse, won’t come home, is an unsustainable way to live. It does not have to be this way and legislation to cure gaps in the law is a tool we can and must use to protect Granite Staters from harm. It is gravely disappointing to see the House refuse common-sense gun violence prevention measures time and time again. ”

Rev. Heidi Heath, Executive Director of the NH Council of Churches: “A society is only as strong as how we care for our children. Something is terribly wrong when our children can go to school, and their parents have to worry they will be gunned down in their learning environment. The Council of Churches believes all are created in the image of God, and entitled to live free from the epidemic of gun violence. Today’s vote is a hard loss for parents, students, and all who seek a safer Granite State for children and families.”

Fisto Ndayishimiye, Lead Organizer for Change for Concord and GunSense NH Youth Advisory Board Member: “I am a survivor of a community where gun violence was pervasive, and I understand the impacts and harms that guns can cause when handled inappropriately and dangerously. I urge the New Hampshire House of Representatives to pass gun violence prevention efforts to keep our communities safer.”

Aarika Roy, Student Leader and Junior at Nashua North High School, GunSense NH Youth Advisory Board Member: “Time and time again, as a country we continue to fall into a deeper cycle of gun violence. My peers and I continue to advocate for stricter gun violence prevention policies, and we have tried to make our voices heard through a number of ways including protesting, testifying, speaking directly with our lawmakers, and more. Governor Sununu and the state legislature continue to push us down and discourage us with their inaction. The further our country falls into this dangerous path, the more likely something as horrific as what has occurred repeatedly in other states will occur here if our elected officials don’t make safe, informed decisions. We encourage them to reconsider these gun violence prevention bills to create a safer future for students across the state, and set an example across the nation.”

Jonathan Weinberg, a campaign organizer with GunSense NH, a project of Granite State Progress, and a former March for Our Lives student leader inspired by the student response to the Parkland shooting:

“Less than a year ago, we witnessed Uvalde. Over five years ago, we witnessed Parkland. Over ten years ago, we witnessed Sandy Hook. Over twenty years ago, we witnessed Columbine. As of Sunday, March 6th, Axios reported that the U.S already surpassed over 100 mass shootings in 2023. It is beyond time that the New Hampshire State Legislature act and pass gun violence prevention legislation, enacting safeguards to create safer communities. Today we witnessed an abject failure from our state legislators as they opposed gun violence prevention measures, disregarding the will of the voters.”

The remaining packaging of gun violence prevention bills is anticipated to be scheduled for floor votes later in March. For more details on the bills or to speak to gun violence prevention advocates, contact GunSense NH.

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Public Education Advocates Request the Department of Education to Halt 306 Rules Revision Until Clear Public Process and Timeline Established

The minimum standards for public education are being redrafted with little transparency or public input

CONCORD, NH –  Professional educators, parents, and community leaders from some of the state’s leading public education organizations have signed a joint letter requesting the New Hampshire Department of Education and the NH State Board of Education to halt the current 306 Rules revision process until a more transparent and inclusive public process and timeline is established for the consequential rules. 

The 306 Rules, also known as the Minimum Standards for Public Education, address every aspect of public education in New Hampshire. From professional development for teachers to classroom curriculum to what is served in the cafeteria, the 306’s have a significant impact on the way New Hampshire public education students experience schooling. Yet the process for drafting the new rules has left many concerned. The letter addresses several aspects of the current process that the state’s top public education advocates want addressed, such as a lack of diverse and critical input from key education partners and stakeholders, the current drafted version’s attempts to gut core content areas, and a lack of public transparency and accountability and a clear timeline on behalf of both the NH Department of Education and the National Center for Competency Based Learning (NCCBL), the firm hired through a sole-source contract to conduct the revision process.

“The NH Department of Education’s current 306 Rules drafting process is being conducted by an outside firm with little public oversight for how stakeholders are selected, the content they discuss, the input they provide, or the timeline they are operating on,” said Sarah Robinson, the Education Justice Campaign Director for Granite State Progress. “These rules are crucial to maintaining a strong and inclusive public education in our state. Without broad public input and scrutiny from all stakeholders, how can the DOE expect to offer a draft that meets the needs of our students? We should all be concerned about attempts to rewrite our public education standards without a strong and transparent public process.”

The joint letter, found below, calls to restart the process in a more open and transparent manner and to include a broad and diverse range of stakeholders to ensure the best outcomes for our students, and our state. Signing organizations offer the additional statements:

Megan Tuttle, President, NEA-NH: “The behind-closed-doors process being used by the New Hampshire Department of Education and their selected contractor is very concerning and runs counter to how we do things in New Hampshire. With something as important as rewriting the minimum standards for our public schools, input from a broad variety of stakeholders and the public should have been included from the start. Every New Hampshire student deserves a school with the resources, programs, and curriculum to nurture their curiosity and desire to learn. The 306 Rules are a critical part of ensuring high expectations and standards across our schools that foster strong, inclusive learning environments for our students and facilitate parental, family, and community involvement and engagement. We urge the Commissioner to restart these efforts with a more representative process, operating in a transparent environment.”

Deb Howes, President, AFT-NH: “The 306 Rules serve as the foundation for learning in our public schools, and education stakeholders know how critical it is that the rules are established in the best interest of our students. Without a clear process and timeline, involving a broad and diverse range of stakeholders, the NH Department of Education is harming public confidence in how the rules are being formed and implemented. There is reasonable concern over whether the process is being intentionally conducted outside of established timelines and public oversight, and what that might mean for public schools and our students. Moving quickly to establish a clear and public process allows everyone to move forward together.” 

Zack Sheehan, Project Director, NH School Funding Fairness Project: “Changes to these standards impact almost every aspect of our public schools, including conversations and decisions related to funding. These standards must strive to support well-resourced public schools that can provide a great education to every student who walks through their doors. That’s why it is critical that there be a process that incorporates and values opportunities for public input. I understand that actively seeking out input from a diverse set of stakeholders is challenging, time consuming work, but our students, parents, school districts, and taxpayers deserve nothing less.”

Jen Bisson, Board Chair, Support Our Schools New Hampshire: “As a parent of two young daughters, I am disheartened by the way in which the state has handled revising the 306 Administrative rules. I am very concerned that these rules are going to hurt the public schools that my children attend. There has been almost no transparency in the process, and what little we have been able to learn about the process is troubling to say the least. It is time to start this process over and do it right. Our childrens’ education is too important.”

Carisa Corrow, Founder, Educating for Good: “As times change and priorities shift, New Hampshire’s rules for public schools should be updated regularly in a transparent process that includes students, parents, educators as well as the community at large. The current attempt at updating NH’s education rules has neither been transparent nor inclusive of the communities these rules will serve. While recent attempts to engage educators is encouraging, the Department of Education needs to ensure more voices are heard.”

Janet Ward, Vice President, League of Women Voters NH: “The League of Women Voters of NH supports public schools as a foundation of our democracy. The League believes in transparency in all state departments.  Revision of the rules which govern New Hampshire’s schools should be done in an open and public manner. The most recent review of the 306 rules has been done privately, without public participation or oversight.  These are the reasons the League signed the letter sent to NH’s Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education asking for the establishment of an open and transparent 306 revisioning process.”

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