New Hampshire Democrat lawmaker causes controversy when he told House Republicans their proposal violates the Second Amendment.
“The law should be kept the way it is,” said Rep. Timothy O. Horrigan (D.-Durham) in response to a Republican proposal to add “firearms” to an existing list of prohibitions for welfare recipients.
Horrigan said Republicans in the state legislature unjustly decided to go further than a 2013 federal mandate that prohibits strip clubs and liquor stores – to include firearms. Smoking and alcohol is already prohibited. Most recipients of welfare are very poor and a lot of them are disabled, he said.
“Public assistance recipients who are accepted for cash benefits should be free to decide how to use it – they cannot afford to buy much of anything.” Cash benefits, which is different than food stamps, is an extremely small amount of money and is mostly spent on rent not luxuries, he said.
“Nobody’s sitting around smoking premium cigars at tax payer expense.” The Second Amendment is not an exclusive right for some, said the former physical science technician with the Army Corps of Engineers. “The Second Amendment even applies to people receiving public assistance.”
Richard J. Feldman, president of New Hampshire-based Independent Firearm Owners Association, said the state’s “Live Free or Die” slogan is neither conservative nor liberal policy.
“I applaud Rep. Timothy Horrigan for his principled approach when it comes to including guns in the debate over freedom of personal decision-making and government benefits,” said the former National Rifle Association attorney. IFOA promotes safe and responsible firearms ownership as guaranteed by the Second Amendment while supporting effective solutions for complex issues.
Feldman, who is the author of “Ricochet: Confessions of a gun lobbyist” and a former staffer in the Reagan White House, said Horrigan’s decision to oppose burdensome state regulation shows a lawmaker who defends freedom. “It exemplifies the distinction from the Bloomberg ‘nanny state’ patronizing elitists that want to use government to regulate liberty.”
The strongest argument made by House Republicans is that firearms would be purchased at taxpayer expense, said Horrigan. “They feel it’s wrong that those types of people should be buying guns.”
Some are under the false impression that public assistance recipients are separate from the rest of us and deserving of only the barest of existence, he said. “They are people like us only in difficult circumstances because they are gridlocked or disabled.”
The measure was defeated after debate last week and the state senate health committee will issue a report, he said. “Presumably the bill will be brought up next term.”
Horrigan said he is of the position that there is a place for giving to the unfortunate without undermining their freedom. “People who receive public assistance have the same rights as everyone else.”
The law would be ineffective as costs will exceed its usefulness, said the second term House member.
“Case workers will spend more time keeping track of how people are spending their money; accumulate all their receipts, just so they are prohibited from spending more than $25 at once.” The rules and requirements get stricter and stricture, the funding goes up and up, he said.
“We get to the point that we are spending more money administering the program than actually benefitting from it.” The bill was unnecessary from the start, he said. “If they passed it would make the cost of administering it higher.”
Horrigan, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, said his Democrat colleagues also supported killing the bill, but they probably would have preferred a less candid approach. “Some of them are grateful too,” he said. “We learned a lot from the debate – that’s positive.”
There are two opinions reflected in the state legislature, he said. “There is a school of thought that says do not change it and the other that says we have to do something even if we are unsure what that is.”