Mike Huckabee says it's a “God” issue. He says that by taking God out of schools — which is a lie, since anyone can pray anytime, anywhere — and religion out of public dialogue — another lie — that we encourage killings. We can expect Pat Robinson to chime in soon, as he did by accusing President Barack Obama of fulfilling his socialist dreams by letting us get close to the fiscal cliff.
These spokespeople for the NRA — the organization that makes big bucks by getting gun owners to fear confiscation (for which no one is calling) — will scare many a-political leader from even wanting to open the discussion. We've gone through this before — college kids are shot, a high school becomes a battle ground, a Member of Congress is shot along with aides and volunteers and constituents wanting to talk with her – and our concern peaks, then fades.
We can't let that happen this time. THIS TIME, with President Obama's words of passion and compassion, we need to get serious about having the dialogue. And the dialogue is simple: let's talk about setting up a responsible, reasonable process for owning weapons that shoot things into people.
I had to add “Motorcycle Operator” to my nearly 50-year old drivers license this year. The process I had to undergo was much more extensive than if I had wanted to buy and use a gun or rifle, for any reason.
I had to visit the motor vehicles offices three times — once to apply, once to take a written test to get my learner's permit, then another time a few weeks later to take my practical operator's test. It wasn't easy, but I was asking to be put into control of a vehicle that I could kill someone with, or get killed. I didn't complain. I didn't think my rights were being challenged.
In 2001 and 2002, then-N.H. House member Martha Fuller Clark, and then-State Senator Burt Cohen, co-sponsored three bills. One was Senate Bill 376, requiring a mental health review for gun applicants. Another was House Bill 427 calling for limitations on Saturday Night Specials.
A third, primarily sponsored by Rep. Fuller Clark, was HB 736, creating a “Firearm's Protection Act.” It was one of the most comprehensive laws in the nation, and would have set up a responsible, yet simple process for gun ownership. The procedure it created wasn't complicated, and didn't take guns away from legitimate owners.
But the bill created a major firestorm in the legislature, and many likely supporters backed down by the time it got to the House floor. It was killed 324 to 35. Voting for it was one of the best votes I've ever made.
Martha Fuller Clark was courageous and ahead of her time in sponsoring that bill — as was Burt Cohen with his co-sponsorship. It was used against her when she ran for Congress, but they both helped open the discussion on this issue — which must continue.
Those bills still remain online on the State of New Hampshire Legislative WEBSITE. They need to be dusted off, perhaps updated a bit, and the discussion needs to be held.
The foresight of good Democrats like Martha Fuller Clark and Burt Cohen has to continue — statewide, and nationally. We can't be afraid of talking about this issue.
It's time. It's late, but it's time.