[Posted Thursday, September 9, 2010, at 6:00 p.m.] Pro-Gun New Hampshire is a non-political organization dedicated to protecting New Hampshire's Second Amendment rights. PGNH does not put out a report card grading candidates running for office on their support of gun rights. Certain other organizations, however, do put out such report cards claiming to portray how the candidates stand on firearms issues. As each of these report cards come out, we at PGNH will "Grade the Graders" to rate how much weight and credibility should be given to the grades in their report cards.
The New Hampshire Firearms Coalition recently distributed such a report card at the Concord gun show (September 4 and 5), grading candidates for the primary elections. The NHFC report card is available online at http://www.nhfc-ontarget.org . Here are our grades for NHFC's Report Card:
Our grading of the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition "2010 Primary Election Guide" (September 2010):
The grading scale used is as follows:
GOOD (POINTS = 2)
MEDIUM (POINTS = 1)
POOR (POINTS = 0)
(POINTS = 0)
FAIRNESS: POOR (POINTS = 0)
PRESENTATION: GOOD (POINTS = 2)
GROUP CREDIBILITY: POOR (POINTS = 0)
TOTAL POINTS 2
"B" 6-7 TOTAL POINTS;
"C" 4-5 TOTAL POINTS;
"D" 3 TOTAL POINTS;
"F" 0-2 TOTAL POINTS.
Final Grade: F
DISCUSSION OF EVALUATION CRITERIA
To examine truthfulness we should look at the voting records of some of those graded. Let's take Merrimack District 6, for example. The basis of grades for Rep. Jenn Coffey and Rep. Priscilla Lockwood should be on their voting records, community activity, and bill sponsorship or co-sponsorship, in our opinion. For candidates Seth Cohn, Hardy Macia, Sean Cox, Gregory Hill and Kenneth Kreis, one would have to depend on their surveys and activity in the community.
Rep. Coffey is known in the community and nationally as a leader in the Second Amendment Community. Coffey has dedicated the past 5 years to volunteering for the Second Amendment Sisters, and currently serves as their National Director of Legislative Affairs. Coffey led the charge against the NH Statehouse firearms ban and founded the Hannah Dustin Defense League to galvanize women on this issue. She was the prime sponsor of the NH knife rights bill, which passed successfully though the House and Senate and went on to be signed by Governor Lynch, setting a national landmark: this was the first time in US history a state repealed all prohibitions on knives. Coffey has received awards for her work on the knife bill, a small fraction of what she has done as a citizen and as a legislator to advance people's rights. Coffey's voting record is 100% Second Amendment.
Rep. Priscilla Lockwood has voted in favor of expanding the fish and game rules to include muzzleloaders; we agree this was a bad vote, but she voted in support of the self-defense bill HB160, and for the Firearms Freedom Act. Lockwood voted against creating a new felony for carrying in the statehouse and against the ban on open carrying in public places. She voted against Rep. Willette's amendment to remove the compact zone laws. Overall she appears mixed on Second Amendment issues.
Being a new candidate, Ken Kreis does not have a voting record, but he has consistently assisted many with Second Amendment events and projects. Kreis served as the President of the NH Wildlife Federation, and is an advisor to PGNH. He has volunteered his Concord business, Capitol Copy, for use as the headquarters address for PGNH. He has worked year after year supporting, volunteering, and raising money for the Capital Area Friends of the NRA annual dinner. We can not know if he filled out a survey for the NHFC or what his answers might have been.
Hardy Macia has held an elected office in the past, is a life member of Gun Owners of America, a member of the NRA, and has stated he has consistently exercised his right to carry throughout his adult life.
Seth Cohn has assisted for years with Pro-Gun New Hampshire and the Second Amendment Sisters by working tables and events, as well as volunteering to build websites. He and his wife are known supporters of Second Amendment issues.
Gregory Hill and Sean Cox are new to the scene and we are unaware of any work they have done in the Second Amendment community. A recent post on Cox's Facebook page indicated his new membership with the NRA this past August.
Now the NHFC grades:
Macia A, Coffey B+, Lockwood C-, Kreis B-, Cohn ?, Hill ?, Cox A
Our question is, how does Cox, a newcomer with no record or volunteer hours, get an A and Coffey a B+? Cox was given an A because he filled out his survey right. We agree with their assessment of Lockwood, but again are perplexed with their grade of Kreis.
When questioned about Coffey's grade it was made known that she was docked for failing to do as the NHFC told her on her Knife Rights bill, and for her choice of Republican primary candidate for the US Senate. Given some recent information later in this article, we wonder if there was yet another reason: Rep. Coffey is Jewish.
Now maybe all of this is just a fluke so let's look at another district, Rockingham 4:
The NHFC grades:
Azarian C-, Bates A, Belanger B, Bettencourt RS, Breton RS,* Crisler RS,* DiFruscia F, Elliott PB ("Has broken written promises concerning actions on Second Amendment issues"), Garcia B, Griffin B-, Ingram RS,* Kolodziej A+
*(RS: "Indicates a deliberate refusal to accept or respond to [the NHFC] survey. Indicates open hostility to the Second Amendment." ...So you're anti-gun if you don't fill out their survey!)
We are curious to know what promises Elliott is accused of breaking; the voting record shows a pro-2A candidate. Bettencourt has a consistently pro-gun voting record but is considered a threat? It has come to our attention he has also backed someone other than Ayotte; could that have cost him the grade? Kolodziej has never served, has no voting record, and could only have answered their survey. How did he get an A+?
So are they being truthful to their members by judging grades based on which Republican candidate for senate a person has backed, or if a candidate "did what they were told"? This one really bothers us, as our representatives are charged to represent us, not any one specific group, including the NHFC. It seems candidates have been judged regardless of their voting records and their work.
We rate NHFC poor for truthfulness.
As we look to the NHFC assessment of candidates for primary election we must look to the issue of fairness: how fairly was each candidate rated, were the same criteria used in each case, and more importantly, do the criteria make sense?
Let's look first at the US Senate Republican primary race:
Kelly Ayotte, NHFC rating "B"
Kelly Ayotte, who actively fought the positive vote from the legislature on the 2006 "Stand Your Ground" bill, SB318, and succeeded in convincing the governor to veto the measure, receives a "B." Ayotte even wrote how she would have voted to support the nomination of anti-gun Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor.
Bill Binnie, NHFC Rating "D"
Bill Binnie received a "D" for having given a campaign contribution to a local political candidate of the opposite party who was working with him on a community project. But he gave the opponent of that person, a member of his own party, a political contribution three times as much. According to the ratings by NHFC, the donation to a friend rises to the level of banishment because she was anti-gun. Not that Binnie had done anything anti-gun; in fact, he has always been a solid proponent. Bill Binnie owns guns, shoots guns, and believes in the right to protect your grocery money and your rent money from a thief. Bill Binnie thinks the only person that should be wounded from a robbery is the robber.
Ovide Lamontagne, NHFC Rating "F"
Ovide Lamontagne received an "F" for support of a safe school zone when he was chairman of the state board of education. Ovide consistently states his support of the second amendment. Ovide's positions are widely available on YouTube, in news articles, and in speeches he gives on the stump, hardly an anti-second amendment candidate. A constitutionalist by far. In a recent on-line comment in the Union Leader (at http://unionleader.com/article.aspx?headline=Wendy+Stone+Long%3a+In+New+Hampshire%2c+Palin+made+a+mother+of+a+mistake&articleId=c20432e8-9a41-4876-90e8-db5ea970c258 ), a gun owner writes that "Dave Wheeler [NHFC co-founder] has been smearing him [Lamontagne] for the past 15 years."
Dennis Lamare, NHFC Rating "D"
Dennis Lamare seems to be hostile on every topic, but that is just our opinion.
Jim Bender, NHFC Rating "RS" (From the NHFC Primary Election Guide: "RS indicates a deliberate refusal to accept or respond to survey. Indicates open hostility to the Second Amendment." Really?)
Jim Bender is a supporter of Second Amendment rights, and has backed that up by publicly stating his support of expanding the castle doctrine. He has also supports Constitutional Carry as exists in Alaska, Vermont, and now Arizona - the right to legally carry a concealed pistol without a government-issued license or permit.
So when we look to see if there is any fairness in the NHFC rating system, we find that the NHFC rates highest those who have, by deed, actually caused harm to the efforts of legislators introducing legislation to enhance or protect Second Amendment rights. Those who may have contributed to candidates NHFC doesn't like but are pro- Second Amendment, as well as those who work for Second Amendment candidates who are not the "NHFC chosen candidate," are punished by NHFC and have received either a failing grade or a grade well below what the normal voter would give if given all the information.
It looks as if to be an "NHFC candidate of choice," one must be against gun rights for the average citizen. NHFC ratings appear to favor those willing to stand up for the right of a criminal who finds they are staring into the barrel of a gun instead of being handed a wallet with your mortgage payment inside. NHFC has found candidates to fit that bill. The law the legislature passed that would have allowed the victim to use a firearm to stop a thief from taking their grocery or rent money was successfully killed by Kelly Ayotte as Attorney General.
She was no friend of the legislature, nor to the need of law enforcement to use whatever tools were available to stop illegal immigrants committing crimes here in NH. She refused to repeal a district court judge's decision to stop two Chiefs of Police from issuing trespass citations to those unlawfully in this country. The judge ruled the enforcement of a federal law could not be constitutionally enforced by a state law enforcement officer. Her answer lies in an interview with the Nashua Telegraph: Click here: Senate hopeful Ayotte favored Ariz.-type law on illegals
"Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte of Nashua said she would have pursued a state law like the one Arizona has to crack down on illegal immigration had local and state police here asked for one."
Note: not if the legislature had asked; she would only present or support a solution if law enforcement had asked. She worked to kill many proposals by legislators to stem the illegal immigration problems. Again, an obvious asset, since Ovide Lamontagne and Bill Binnie have both expressed their opposition and their willingness to act on behalf of the people, not special interests.
Since not all trouble comes from the federal government, let's look at the fairness of the House races for the Republican party, since they have the bulk of the primaries.
We see Jennifer Coffey with a "B+," merely a half point ahead of Ayotte. What has Coffey done to have been classed with the one candidate we know has taken action against legislation favored by pro Second Amendment people?
Jennifer Coffey served as the NH state Coordinator for Second Amendment Sisters for five years, and is currently their National Director of Legislative Affairs. As a State Rep she was the first to successfully remove our archaic laws banning knives. She has been the co-chair for two years of the Capital Area Friends of the NRA, running a successful fundraiser for NRA to use to promote gun rights. She founded the Hannah Dustin Defense League, a women's coalition to fight for the right of female legislators.
She supported the bill to restore the rights of elected officials to carry while in the state house (note the current rule prohibiting this does not prohibit the unelected public from carrying, leaving the elected official prone to being a victim). NHFC worked hard in the House of Representatives to kill the measure. Currently, elected officials cannot carry in the State House.
What did she do to lower her NHFC score? She doesn't support Kelly Ayotte; minus 1.5 points.
In the words of another on Facebook: "They (NHFC) gave Jenn Coffey a B+... that's like giving Einstein a B+ in physics. I doubt anyone uses their ratings for anything."
Compare the rating to an NHFC "A":
Ryan J. Murdough (R) - State Rep candidate from Ashland; NHFC grade "A." Murdough's interview can be viewed here Click here: Candidate: Keep state's complexion white | Concord Monitor
The most telling part of the story is this quote from Murdough in the Concord Monitor article:
He caused a storm recently with a letter to the Monitor that stated his allegiance to the American Third Position, a political party that represents interests of white Americans. The Republican Party immediately ducked for cover and disowned him as a candidate on their ticket.
Murdough wrote that the state's residents "must seek to preserve their racial identity. . . . Legal non-white immigration, anti-white public school systems and anti-white media have done much damage to the United States of America and especially New Hampshire."
"He wasn't out for civil rights," Murdough said [about Martin Luther King, Jr.]. "He was out for the black man. If you argue against something that's politically correct, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Jewish issues, you're persona non grata."
Ah yes, the Jews. They need not apply for residency here, either.
"I've even read some things where Jews are considered white because of their skin," Murdough said. "Technically, they're a different race than white people. They're Semitic; that's not white."
Even though whites weren't America's original settlers, Murdough says American Indians would have to leave, too, just like members of all other non-white races. We came, we saw, we conquered. Too bad.
So you see, the criteria for a high grade seems to have little if anything to do with the Second Amendment, or the US or NH Constitutions for that matter. Those who do damage to the constitutions have been rated high by NHFC, those who work hard so that we don't lose the rights granted under the constitution are rated low. Some are saved from "F" ratings simply for NHFC survival; they are not so dumb as to take on everyone, just the ones they can bully.
Let's look again at who received an NHFC "A" rating. If you agree with Murdough, then take the NHFC rating handbook to the polls and follow it closely. If you disagree, throw it in the trash and ask the questions of the candidates yourself. Listen and learn, but be careful who you listen to.
[The Honorable Bob Clegg, President of Pro-Gun New Hampshire, writes:] To my Native American friends who I labored long hours with, to my Jewish friends who stood shoulder to shoulder with me in fighting for our constitutional rights in both the House and the Senate, to the many African-Americans I grew up with and learned to respect and who taught me so much as a young man, please know that there are many who will not tolerate bigotry and feel it has no place in a ratings system. Pro-Gun New Hampshire believes we are all Americans entitled to protect ourselves and our families, and we find the "graders" of NHFC to have failed the test of fairness and thus to have lost the right to judge any others. We rate the NHFC Poor for Fairness.
The hard copy is easy to read and understand, but it is interesting to note that the hard copy version is not the same as the online version. The example of Grafton 8 comes to mind. Why do they leave out some details on the hard copy? Perhaps even they know supporting a white supremacist might make them look bad, so maybe that is why they only support him online.
The so-called "New Hampshire Firearms Coalition" (NHFC) was formed by Alan Rice, Jay Simkin, Dave Wheeler, and their friends from the Board of Directors of Gun Owners of New Hampshire (GO-NH) when the GO-NH board came within two votes of the two-thirds majority required for expelling Rice in October of 2003.
Alan Rice came to New Hampshire from New Jersey, and was elected to the GO-NH board of directors in 2001. He ran largely on his credentials as a co-author, with his friend Jay Simkin (who also became a GO-NH director) and with Aaron Zelman, of the book Lethal Laws. Zelman is the founder and Executive Director of JPFO, Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, whose website (jpfo.org) includes the label, "America's Most Aggressive Defender of Firearms Ownership." But in his "Open Letter to Jay Simkin and Alan Rice," published on the Internet in 1999, author and former Libertarian Presidential candidate L. Neil Smith accused Rice and Simkin of causing trouble that threatened that organization, writing that they wanted to take it over.
Rice has praised the book Confrontational Politics, and explains that its core premise is that politicians respond to threats. But Rice took the book too seriously, and out of context, using it as an excuse to indulge in bullying that damaged GO-NH. For example, in a public meeting of the GO-NH board of directors, Alan Rice engaged in an angry shouting match with former U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey, and in another public board meeting shouted obscenities at a senior state representative, Stretch Kennedy.
Further, Bill Carney, then a director of the New Hampshire Wildlife Federation, reported that Rice threatened him in a phone call, while David Welch, then chairman of the House Criminal Justice committee, said that he wouldn't let Rice into his office.
Alan Rice and Sam Cohen, who hadn't known each other, both became GO-NH board members in April of 2001. Through his involvement in a national gun-rights group, KeepAndBearArms.com, Cohen was in touch with other gun-rights activists around the country, including a board member of Gun Owners of New Jersey. Learning that Alan Rice had just moved to New Hampshire from New Jersey, Cohen asked his GONJ friend about him. When he was told that Rice had "almost destroyed" the gun-rights movement in New Jersey, Cohen reported that to the GO-NH president, Dr. Steve King. Dr. King then relayed that to a few other GO-NH directors, and the word got back to Rice. Rice then told Dr. King that Sam Cohen was a "mole for Sarah Brady" (of the Brady Campaign, formerly Handgun Control Inc.). (The Russian word for this propaganda tactic is "disinformatsiya," disinformation.) Meanwhile, Cohen went on to become the GO-NH legislative liaison, writing and presenting testimony in the state legislature on behalf of GO-NH. Later, Cohen went on to co-found Pro-Gun New Hampshire along with GO-NH president (following Dr. King), and state representative, Elbert Bicknell; Cohen is now the PGNH Executive Vice President.
Rice was notably outspoken in his call for giving out low grades for the purpose of threatening elected officials to better comply with pro-gun political positions. Rice and his friends controlled a GO-NH grading committee that published candidate grades so outrageously low that Gene Chandler, then New Hampshire Speaker of the House, called a meeting in his State House office between Dr. King and several other GO-NH directors, and twenty or so pro-gun state representatives, to explain why GO-NH had angered its allies in the legislature. At that meeting, it was agreed that Alan Rice was largely responsible for the hard feelings, on the theory that it was easier for him to bully legislators whose pro-gun positions gave him access, than to work against true anti-gun politicians.
Rice and his friends continued sabotaging GO-NH and alienating legislators; at one point Rep. David Welch, chairman of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, sent a letter to Chris Cox, Executive Director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, co-signed by 18 other members of Welch's committee and by Gene Chandler, Speaker of the House. The letter expressed outrage at how a memo sent to all state reps by the NRA-ILA as a result of their subterfuge had "created confusion and concern in the Legislature, and damaged the reputation of the NRA and the NRA state affiliate, Gun Owners of New Hampshire."
Just to complete the picture: in a public GO-NH board meeting, Rice told Dr. King that the reason he couldn't return a phone call to King was that King was "outside [Rice's] local telephone calling area." (This, from someone who had inherited a fortune from his late father.)
After these and several other major instances of conspiracies and misbehavior, the GO-NH board of directors held a vote in October of 2003 to formally expel Alan Rice, charging him with subverting the relationship between GO-NH and the NRA; damaging the reputation of GO-NH within the New Hampshire legislature; damaging the reputation of GO-NH among current and potential members; and fomenting disruption and alienation among the board of directors. The board (21 directors) came within two votes of the two-thirds required for expulsion.
Rice and his friends left the GO-NH Board and formed the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition shortly thereafter. As NHFC, they have continued their policies of threatening and alienating politicians. In 2008, State Representative Jason Bedrick worked with PGNH and GO-NH in submitting a bill to protect shooting ranges from environmentalists' concerns. NHFC thought that the bill included dangerously risky loopholes, and after some discussion, Bedrick felt that the best solution was to simply pull the bill, which he did. Even so, when the NHFC released their primary-election candidate grades, they rated Bedrick an "F." People were seen entering the polls carrying the NHFC grades, and Bedrick lost the primary, and hence his reelection, by one vote. Paradoxically, the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance honored Jason Bedrick that year with their "Legislator of the Year" award.
Alan Rice has recently become a police officer in the town of Brookline. At one point, he caused the arrest of a convenience store owner who put up a sign in the store advertising his privately owned pistol for sale - for violating the law requiring a town license to sell pistols and revolvers "at retail." The charges were dropped.
More recently, as reported in an article at http://pgnh.org/hb1693_hearing_fiasco_the_perfect_is_the_enemy_of_the_good , the NHFC earned this comment from former state rep Paul Mirski, co-founder of the New Hampshire House Republican Alliance, about the behavior of JR Hoell, representing the NHFC, in a legislative hearing on a bill to repeal the State House gun ban:
"In a separate kamikaze
move, the NH Firearms Coalition rep [JR Hoell, their Secretary] threatened the
former Republican leader in the Senate who testified in favor of the ‘fix,'
telling Bob Clegg that they were going to go all out to defeat him. Clegg is
presently a lobbyist, a former cop [Editor's note: Bob Clegg explains that he
worked for the police for years, but wasn't a sworn officer], has been very
good on guns, and isn't running for anything. However, they picked on the
wrong guy to threaten because he has the wherewithal to spend more than NHFC
will ever be able to muster - and the ability therefore to crush them in
"And worse for NHFC, never threaten a legislator or a former legislator who has an intimate familiarity with the system unless of course you want to make yourself ineffective as an advocate in Concord for your cause. The NHFC just keeps reinforcing their pariah status. Word gets around."
Bob Clegg (who was not the PGNH president at the time) was quoted as follows in the same article:
“It has become obvious to me that NHFC is simply a shell group that exists to enhance the position of anti second amendment rights. We are trying hard to not go there but the truth speaks loudly. NHFC has supported the anti gun side every time.”
Later, in a legislative hearing on Rep. Jennifer Coffey’s bill to legalize carrying automatic and double-edged knives, the NHFC testified against the bill because it didn’t include brass knuckles – something that any reasonable person knows would have killed the entire bill. It took a lot of work to persuade the committee to ignore that testimony.
Those in the state legislature who know about the NHFC agree with Paul Mirski and Bob Clegg, and assign no credibility to the group. One wonders if the NHFC is so hung up on claiming the “no compromise” label, and on indulging their childish addiction to threatening and bullying, that they lose sight of doing what’s right.