Meet an anti-gun safety Senate candidate: Don Bolduc

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New Hampshire Republican Senate nominee Don Bolduc is running to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, a strong supporter of gun safety legislation.

In addition to opposing new federal legislation aimed at preventing gun violence, New Hampshire Republican Senate nominee Don Bolduc wants to get rid of the few federal gun safety laws that are already on the books.

Bolduc's 2022 Senate campaign website provides little information about his position on guns beyond a mention of rights in general: "We must stand firm against government encroachment on our God-given liberties and our Constitutional rights. The Second Amendment must be fiercely protected, parents must have the final say in their children's education, and we must end COVID mandates and restrictions."

But two years ago, when he unsuccessfully sought his party's nomination for the Senate seat of Democratic New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, he was more vocal about his positions.

In a campaign ad posted online in August 2020, Bolduc, a retired Army general, says, as text and images highlight his military career: "I support the Second Amendment. I support the private ownership of weapons. ... Thirty-three-plus years in the military and I never punished a weapon for doing something wrong. We have to become a society that looks at placing accountability and responsibility on the people that do these things." As the video shows hands loading cartridges into a shotgun and a hunter silhouetted against a vista of ducks on a lake, Bolduc goes on: "We are in a state that, regardless of whether you're a Republican, independent, Democrat, you own weapons, you appreciate weapons, you use them responsibly."

"We must clearly separate 2nd amendment rights from protecting our citizens," reads a page on his 2020 campaign site. "The key to reducing violence lies not in legislation, but in strong communities that strengthen the family values, faith, education, and sports and arts programs to bring people together and not separate them."

Bolduc narrowly won his party's primary last week and will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in the general election in November.

Hassan has been endorsed by Giffords, the anti-gun violence organization created by former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she survived being shot in the head during a mass shooting.

The group calls the first-term senator "a proud supporter of gun violence prevention ... [with] a strong record of pushing for commonsense measures that will prevent gun violence." The endorsement quotes Hassan as saying: "Gabby Giffords' fearless advocacy and her faith that our democracy can and must take action to prevent gun violence has been an inspiration to me and so many others across New Hampshire. It is an honor to have earned Giffords endorsement and to work together to push for common sense gun safety legislation that will protect Americans from senseless acts of gun violence."

Hassan has backed expanded background checks, extreme risk protection order (or "red flag") laws, and a ban on high-capacity magazines. Hassan voted for the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, a compromise agreement signed into law by President Joe Biden on June 25 that enhances background checks for people under age 21, provides funding for states that choose to implement red flag laws, and makes it harder for convicted domestic abusers to obtain guns.

Bolduc has opposed all of those ideas. And according to a July 2021 statement by the group's state director, Bolduc is a member of Gun Owners of America, a group the Southern Poverty Law Center has called "a more radical alternative to the National Rifle Association," saying, "This radicalism is reflected not only by an absolute 'no-compromise' stance on gun control, but also by [executive director Larry] Pratt's ties to the militia movement, white supremacist organizations, and Christian theocrats."

A spokesperson for Bolduc did not respond to an American Independent Foundation inquiry about his positions on gun violence.

In the course of two Senate campaigns, however, he has indicated an opposition to virtually all gun regulations or restrictions.

No red flag laws

Bolduc opposes extreme risk protection orders, called "red flag laws," which allow judges to temporarily disarm those they deem to be an imminent threat to themselves or others.

"I don't support any of that stuff. I don't support red flag laws," Bolduc said during an Aug. 14 GOP Senate debate. "I spent my entire life fighting for you and protecting your rights."

He told the National Review in September 2019 that he was a "constitutional conservative" and opposed extreme risk protection order laws.

Against background checks

During the August debate, Bolduc also dismissed the idea of requiring background checks on purchasers prior to gun transfers.

"I do not support universal background checks because it just sounds to me like another way the government wants to violate our Second Amendment rights," he said, "and law-abiding citizens from owning, purchasing, carrying, transferring, and doing anything wrong [sic] with firearms that they own. It's very very dangerous."

In July 2021, Bolduc published an open letter urging New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu to sign a bill eliminating the state's Gun Line, the background check system run by the New Hampshire State Police. The system allows a more thorough examination of New Hampshire domestic violence records and other court orders rather than just relying on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Sununu vetoed the legislation, writing: "This bill would create substantial unintended negative consequences by ceding control of our state process to the Federal Government. Groups as diverse as the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition, the New Hampshire Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence, the Attorney General's Office, and the Judicial Branch all join me in raising significant concerns with this legislation."

In March 2021, Bolduc wrote that he opposed both a proposed federal ban on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and a federal bill that would require vendors to allow up to 10 business days for a background check on the would-be purchaser to be completed before selling a firearm.

Opposed the bipartisan gun compromise law

In the wake of the deadly May mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, a group of senators from both parties agreed to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. It won support from 65 senators, including Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Bolduc made it clear that he would not have supported even that compromise.

"I would not have voted for the bill because they did not focus on the right problem," he said during a June 27 primary debate. "The problem is not guns; the problem is failing to secure our children in their schools, failure to adopt a response in policy to accommodate that, and lastly, a system in order to interdict the threat."

No other legislation to address gun violence

In addition to opposing those specific proposals, Bolduc also has indicated an opposition to other approaches to addressing gun violence through legislation.

On Jan. 21, 2020, he posted on Facebook, "As politics continues to stand in the way of solutions, we continue to fail our children. We cannot legislate our way out of this problem, and I have seen first-hand what happens when a government disarms its citizens. We can do better, and it starts with leadership."

Get rid of existing laws

Gun rights activists often dismiss the need for new gun laws on the grounds that the nation should simply "enforce the laws that are already on the books."

Bolduc does not want to enforce those laws. He has proposed repealing the few existing federal gun laws on the books and backs forcing states with restrictive gun laws to allow those traveling from states with more permissive rules regarding carrying concealed weapons to ignore those restrictive laws.

"I'm on the record as saying I support a national carry law and I think that, you know, responsible, law-abiding citizens that own weapons should not be restricted because of a border," he explained in a July 2020 Facebook Live appearance.

This January, Bolduc posted on Facebook that would protect "attempts by the Biden Administration to violate your 2d Amendments Rights." He called unconstitutional violations a number of existing gun laws, including the National Firearms Act of 1934, which regulates machine guns and suppressors; the ban on interstate gun sales; and the prohibition on the sale of handguns to kids.

In a February 2021 appearance on the conservative talk radio program "The Amazing Doc Greene Show," Bolduc said he wants his state to ignore and refuse to enforce federal gun laws: "Look what they want to do to our Second Amendment rights. Look what they want to do to our gun ownership, right? Look what they want to do to our ability to do that. I want New Hampshire to become a sanctuary state."

He then told Greene he wants to get rid of all gun laws:

You're making a great point about, you know, our Second Amendment rights and how they have successfully whittled away at them, putting these loopholes in. And slow but surely, they're going away and away and away. And what I guess my point is, what people associate with their Second Amendment rights today are going to be gone. And of course, if you look at my platform, you know that I want to get rid of all those restrictions. We know enough about gun ownership, we know enough about crime, we know enough about what causes the crime, and it isn't, you know, law-abiding citizens carrying weapons around or owning weapons. You know, it's the exact opposite.

Guns aren't a public health crisis

According to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, more than 32,000 people have died from gun violence already in 2022, and at least 45,060 lost their lives to gun violence in 2021. A little more than half of the gun deaths were suicides.

In April 2021, President Biden declared that his administration was "taking steps to confront not just the gun crisis, but what is actually a public health crisis."

Bolduc responded on Facebook, repeating a line he'd used before: "President Biden is declaring gun violence a public health crisis. In my 33 years of military service, I never punished a weapon for doing something wrong. Personal accountability inside a system of law, order, and justice MUST be our approach."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.