CONCORD, N.H. (CBS) — Flags were lowered to half-staff over the New Hampshire state capitol Tuesday afternoon, reminding everyone about last weekend’s tragedy in Tucson, Arizona. But some wonder if new policies in the Granite State are inviting a similar disaster to Concord.
Last week a Republican-led joint committee of Representatives and Senators repealed a ban on guns on statehouse grounds. A short time later, the full House overwhelmingly overturned a decades-long ban on guns in the House of Representatives’ chamber.
Even so, not all House members agree with the changes.
“On the floor of this house, our weapons are words, not guns,” said State Representative Jackie Cali-Pitts.
The Democrat was debating on the floor of the House in 2009 when she says gallery onlookers exposed weapons they snuck in.
“I don’t think anyone on the floor could turn and sharp-shoot someone in the gallery with children and visitors,” explained Cali-Pitts. “It just doesn’t make sense to me.”
That particular situation ended peacefully, but it was a stark reminder to her and to everyone else about the realities of working in a public building where tensions run high — a building, by the way, that was and will remain free of metal detectors.
WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports.
Those in favor of the new policy suggest it’s really not all that new. And to be sure, the question over whether the old gun policy worked is a good one. It was enforced primarily by a no guns sticker that’s since been removed from the door.
“There have always been people here with guns. It’s not a secret,” explained Deputy House Majority Leader Rep. Shawn Jasper. “Nothing has caused concern in the past.”
Jasper added, “It’s comforting to know there are sane people armed.”
But when confronted with the possibility of a situation in which there is a heated argument that involves a large number of people with loaded weapons, Jasper admitted the situation could get ugly in a hurry.
“But the reality is that’s not going to happen. It never has,” he concluded.
That’s not good enough for Rep. Cali-Pitts.
“I don’t agree. We don’t have to wait for the first time,” she said. “People were safe at that shopping mall [in Tucson]; that was the first time.”
State Senator Sylvia Larsen was the only person on that joint committee who voted to keep guns banned on Statehouse property.
She’s also dismayed by the thought of more guns in the building, despite the added protection gun advocates say she’ll now enjoy.
“Some of their logic is, if there’s a disruption there will be a shootout on the floor and they would protect us,” said Larsen. “I think it’s very unlikely you’d have a good outcome from that.”