CONCORD — Former Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Wednesday anchored a discussion of women leaders who called for several steps on the state and national levels to fight back against and reduce domestic gun violence.
Giffords, who has made a miraculous recovery after being shot in the head during a shooting rampage in 2011, is on a nine-state tour to rally support for “sensible ways to reduce gun violence,” according to Americans for Responsible Solutions, an advocacy group she and her husband, Mark Kelly, co-founded.
With about 15 Granite State women officials and victims advocates seated at a long table in a conference room at the The Centennial hotel, Giffords began the discussion by saying:
“Dangerous people with guns are a threat to women. Criminals with guns, abusers with guns, stalkers with guns make gun violence a women’s issue. For our mothers, for our families, for me and you, women can lead the way.
“We stand up for common sense. We stand for responsibility. We can change our laws. We can win elections. Please join your voice with mine,” she said.
The group, after much discussion on individual cases and frequent scenarios — including the murder of 2013 Joshua Savyon of Amherst by his father during a supervised visit – the group agreed that on the state and national levels, it is important to:
_ Have a nationwide effort to follow New Hampshire’s lead on Joshua’s Law, which made domestic violence a crime
_ Expand the definition of domestic violence to dating relationships
_ Expand current law so that firearm possession is barred for those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes and those convicted of stalking crimes.
_ Expand background checks to include gun sales over the internet and at gun shows.
Pia Carusone, Giffords’ former congressional chief of staff who is now a senior adviser to ARS, said the group is not pushing for background checks for every informal sale, such as a transfer between family members and friends.
But, she said, “There should be background checks if you’re selling to a stranger.”
Carusone, a former communications director for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, asked the New Hampshire women to urge Sen. Kelly Ayotte to support not only the Manchin-Toomey amendment, which Ayotte opposed last year, but also the “Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act,” a bill that would update the laws to prevent abusive dating partners and convicted stalkers from having access to firearms.
Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance said police and prosecutors would be better able to do their jobs to deal with gun violence if they received more funding. For instance, she said, officials would be better able to check on permit applications to determine if the applicant is lying about his criminal history.
State Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, urged public education about gun safety.
State Rep. Katherine Rogers, D-Concord, a former Merrimack County Attorney, urged those pushing for stricter gun laws try to find common ground with opponents.
She suggested a basic starting point: “It’s wrong to shoot people. It’s wrong to kill people. We need to find one point of agreement and work from there.”
ARS says that Giffords is a gun owner and wants to limit access to guns by dangerous individuals “while respecting the rights and traditions of responsible, law-abiding citizens.”
According to ARS, between 2001 and 2010, domestic violence was a factor in 92 percent of New Hampshire’s homicide-suicides.
“During the same period, the use of a firearm was responsible for 48 percent of the state’s domestic violence homicides and 53 percent of the perpetrators of domestic violence homicides had a known history of domestic violence. From 2001 to 2010, 86 percent of the state’s domestic violence homicides involved a female victim who died at the hands of a male intimate partner,” ARS said, citing state statistics.
The group also says that nationally, women are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other “developed” countries and more than half of all murders of American women are committed with guns.
While current federal law prohibits convicted domestic abusers and felony stalkers from legally buying guns, individuals who have been convicted of misdemeanor stalking are not prohibited from purchasing firearms and can still pass a background check and buy a gun through the so-called “stalker gap,” ARS said.