Near-brawl in NH State House prompts fears of gun violence by lawmakers

Tempers flared among Republican lawmakers this week after two state representatives of their own party nearly came to blows on the floor of the New Hampshire State House on Thursday after an attempt to keep a bipartisan gun bill alive. (Colin Booth/Granite Post)

By Colin Booth

May 26, 2024

Two Republican state representatives nearly came to blows on the floor of the New Hampshire State House on Thursday after an attempt to keep a bipartisan gun bill alive led to personal character attacks by Republicans opposed to the legislation.

The move prompted immediate concerns over safety in the state’s capitol building by House Democrats, who put out a statement addressing the potential for deadly violence with firearms in the building.

“Escalating tempers in the chamber, where we know guns are present, is unproductive and potentially dangerous for the safety of House members, staff, press, and the visiting public,” said House Democratic Leader Matt Wilhelm in a statement.

The policy allowing firearms in the New Hampshire State House has changed several times due to shifts in political control.

In 2011, when Republicans took control of the House, they removed a ban on guns in the chamber. This ban had previously been in place since 1971. Then in 2013, when Democrats regained control, they reinstated the ban. This pattern continued, with Republicans lifting the ban again in 2015, and Democrats reinstating it once more in 2019.

Rep. Terry Roy, by one Republican lawmaker’s account, confronted Rep. Cyril Aures for allegedly yelling “liar” at him from his seat and calling him a “gun grabber.” Roy then reportedly grabbed Aures by the lapel and challenged him to a fight, a charge disputed by some lawmakers who say no contact was made between the two men.

According to reporting from NH Bulletin, Roy said, “I went over after the vote and asked him if he in fact did yell (liar) out and, if he did, would he care to explain later when not in the people’s House,” Roy wrote. “He then lost his mind and stood up and started screaming mother (expletive). I may have mentioned something about being an example of a dangerous mental health issue.”

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Republican lawmakers let their anger about the situation and how House leadership handled it be known.

“He is a ticking time bomb. A chair of a committee / part of leadership-he should have been thrown out immediately. I am very very very disappointed in how it was handled,” said Republican State Rep Kelly Potenza, sharp in her criticism of Roy and Republican House leadership in a post on social media.

Meanwhile Republican State Rep Aidan Ankarberg said how Republican leadership handled the situation would likely impact his attendance moving forward.

“When the Republican leadership allows a committee chairman (Terry Roy) to physically assault a member on the House floor with impunity it’s time to take an early summer recess. Off to greener pastures….” Ankarberg said.

Republican State Rep. Brandon Phinney said online, “Almost had a fight break out on the House floor with two Republicans because of a gun control amendment to the state prison construction bill. This place is a f*cking CLOWN SHOW.”

The New Hampshire Firearms Coalition has since called on Roy to be removed as chair of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, saying he “isn’t fit to oversee the work that committee is charged with.”

The gun violence policy and advocacy organization Giffords founded by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, herself a victim of gun violence, responded to the incident on Twitter.

“In New Hampshire, anyone can bring a firearm into the State House. This is dangerous—especially when potentially armed elected officials threaten to fistfight on the House floor. Firearms have no place in the democratic process,” the organization wrote.

There have been multiple gun related incidents in the New Hampshire State House, typically with Republicans dropping firearms. One high-profile incident in 2017 saw a Republican State Representative dropping a loaded gun on the floor near children.

Author

  • Colin Booth

    Based in Epsom, Colin Booth is Granite Post's political correspondent. A Granite State native and veteran political professional with a deep background in journalism, he's worked on campaigns and programs in battleground states across the country, ranging from New Hampshire, Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.

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