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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Binnie: Ayotte soft on gun laws

CONCORD – Republican Senate candidate Bill Binnie’s campaign stepped up its claim that GOP rival Kelly Ayotte of Nashua as attorney general opposed gun owner rights.

Lobbyist and ex-Senate Majority Leader Robert Clegg of Hudson appeared in a recent Binnie campaign commercial and charged Ayotte was “soft” on gun owner rights and illegal immigration.

Clegg joined a Binnie campaign conference call with reporters Tuesday along with state Rep. Jennifer Coffey, R-Andover, and Evan Nappen, a lawyer who specializes in state gun laws.

“There have been a number of issues where Kelly has not been on the side of what I call the good guy who was trying to simply protect himself or his property,” Clegg told reporters. “I don’t understand why she did it, but it’s an issue I don’t think she should run away today.”

Binnie has three different ads on TV and radio attacking Ayotte on her positions. Ayotte has answered with one of her own calling Binnie a “liberal” on immigration, taxes and social issues.

At the core of the gun owner debate was Ayotte’s opposition to a 2006 bill (SB 318) to let anyone in public defend themselves with deadly force against someone who first threatened to use that force.

Current law expressly permits deadly force in defense only on someone’s own property.

Elsewhere, someone under attack can employ it only if the person can’t safely retreat.

At the urging of Ayotte and the Association of New Hampshire Police Chiefs, Gov. John Lynch vetoed the bill in May 2006. The Legislature sustained that veto.

At the event where Lynch announced the veto, Ayotte said the bill would have given criminals more legal protections.

For example, a drug dealer could claim self-defense if he shot at another drug dealer who was trying to rob him but accidentally killed someone else, Ayotte maintained at the time.

Lynch also warned it would encourage open warfare on the streets.

Coffey countered Tuesday that Florida adopted a similar law five years ago.

“We haven’t seen it become the Wild West down there,” Coffey said. “I actually find it surprising we are having this kind of conversation in New Hampshire.”

In an e-mail, Sen. Jack Barnes, R-Raymond, defended Ayotte and criticized Clegg who gave Ayotte’s Senate campaign $500 last year before he endorsed Binnie several months later.

“She is the only candidate in the race who can point to a record of standing up for Second Amendment rights and clearing individuals who used deadly force to protect themselves,” Barnes wrote.

The Ayotte campaign declined to respond on its own to this latest attack from the Binnie camp.

Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 321-7040 or