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Jun 23, 2016 11:59 PM

Not everyone supports arming of security force at State House

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – The top Democrat in the state House of Representatives says the arming of the State House guards enjoys “bipartisan support.”

But a veteran Democratic state senator says arming the security force is “a bad idea.”

In an interview with NH1 News, House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff said “it’s something that’s been talked about by leadership in the House and the Senate, Democrat and Republican. And it’s been something that’s always had bipartisan support.”

Joe Burke, the acting Chief of Protective Services at the State House, said that the training of the eight person force will begin in mid-July and that a month later “everybody will be ready to go.”

“A portion is classroom training and a portion is firearms range training,” Burke told NH1 News.

The guards will be armed with sidearm pistols, Burke added.

Shurtleff, a former U.S. Marshall, said that “security people, by and large, are retired law enforcement officers. They’re used to weapons. They’ll go through training like any police officer and it just enhances the security.”

While the security guards currently are not armed, lawmakers and visitors to the State House are allowed to carry guns in most parts of the building, as well as the Legislative Office Building across the street.

“It is somewhat ironic that we tell the public that anyone can walk in here with a gun, whether concealed or open carried, but we do not allow our own security force to be armed. And sadly we know the times are changing and that we need enhanced security in this building and the campus,” Shurtleff pointed out.

D'Allesandro: 'It's a bad idea'

But state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro told NH1 News “I think it’s a bad idea. The safety and security of people is a high item for me. But this building has been safe and secure for a long period of time. I’ve been in office here, on and off, since 1972. I think I feel very safe in the building. I feel very safe in my office. And I think one of the things that makes it safe is the perception that this is a calm place, a safe place.”

“We bring our fourth graders in here, they come in, they sit down in that front lobby, they enjoy it. They come to the House chamber, they come to the Senate chamber. They don’t see people with guns on or anything of that nature. I think it’s New Hampshire saying we don’t need all of these things that are available everyplace else. We don’t need the metal detectors, we don’t need the guns. We believe in taking care of one another and we believe that you do it in the proper fashion,” the Manchester Democrat added.

The changes, approved recently by a legislative facilities committee consisting of top senators and representatives, also include limiting the public’s ability to walk into the State House through many of the entrances. Visitors will only be able to enter the building through the front door along the plaza and through the side door off Park Street, which is handicapped-accessible.

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