Exeter Rep. Haskins: We can make America a refuge, not a battlefrontLinda Haskins 

Gun Rights

Over 8,000 civilians have died in Ukraine over the past year of tragic, gruesome conflict. Accounts from refugees who have escaped the violence have described the distinctive sound of ammunition hitting porcelain dishes and mirrors in their homes, as they huddle in a basement – all of their belongings shattered, along with hope for a safe life in the only country they have ever known. Those lucky enough to have survived, have fled, and many of them have arrived here in America.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be on a team in our community working to resettle Ukrainian refugees as they build a stable life in America and pick up the pieces of a traumatic past. When we discussed getting a TV with a cable connection, we cautioned them about news reports showing the bombs descending on their home city of Kyiv – reports which are too often followed by a reporter recounting the latest mass shooting in our American schools, grocery stores, at birthday parties, concerts, in our churches and synagogues. Having just escaped a madman’s terror, these refugees have come to a country where they thought they would be safe. The reality is that over 11,000 Americans have lost their lives to gun violence since the beginning of 2023 – our everyday lives have become the active combat zone foreigners seek refuge from.

As I leave each morning for legislative sessions in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, I wish I could assure my Ukrainian friends that change was imminent, that legislators could look beyond partisanship and NRA money and come together over common-sense gun violence prevention. The truth is, I cannot.

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On one of my first days in the House, Republicans, nearly in lockstep, voted to block a bill expanding background checks, which would have forced firearms dealers online and at gun shows to require that a purchaser was legally able to own a gun. Seems reasonable right? Within minutes, Republicans also blocked a bill to impose a waiting period between the purchase and sale of a gun to prevent impulsive acts of violence and suicide. Studies show a ‘cooling off’ period saves lives – but sadly many legislators are not putting lives first.

More: Portsmouth threat sparks call for NH laws, banning guns ‘100%’ on school grounds

Earlier this month, Republicans voted to kill a bill requiring the safe storage of firearms to prevent accidents that are all too common causing the death of our children. Not only did the bill not pass, but Republicans voted to block any further discussion of the safe storage of firearms for the entire term. As the daughter of a deputy sheriff who never saw her father’s gun when he was out of uniform, I cringed.

How can I assure my Ukrainian friends that their child will be safe as she goes to high school each day, or to youth group at church? Would I be lying to promise them that America would be different, that the sound of breaking porcelain and mirrors wouldn’t follow them here? I will stand with all those who believe we must speak up, stand up, and do whatever it takes to stop this madness. Unfettered access to firearms, with no common-sense protections for public safety is not the New Hampshire way, and it’s not the American way. If we work together, we can be a refuge, not a battlefront.

Linda Haskins is a Democratic state representative from Exeter.

More: Portsmouth threat sparks call for NH laws, banning guns ‘100%’ on school grounds

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