Organizers of an "Honor Your Oath" rally held at the State House Saturday afternoon charged that the 189 House members who voted to repeal the state's "Stand Your Ground" law last month violated their oaths of office and should be impeached.Beyond the wild, incalculable imbecility of an eleven year old prancing around with an automatic weapon as a political gesture, the real insanity is that of the elders. The notion that a legislator is guilty of criminal conduct through his or her vote to repeal a statute that is two years old, and to revert to the pre-existing law, basically criminalizes any dispute over a vote that any other cretin in or out of the Legislature disagrees with. As summarized in a recent opinion letter from the Attorney General of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Constitution has an explicit provision--an analog to the federal Constitution's "Speech and Debate" Clause, which is designed to, in the words of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, afford "wide freedom of speech, debate and deliberation without intimidation or threats." As the Court explained:
"Don't fool around with the Second Amendment," warned Jack Kimball, chairman of Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC, which hosted the event.
"We are now at a tipping point in our country," he said. "If we don't take action and save our Republic, it won't exist anymore.
"The time for timidity is over. The time for action is now."
The flashpoint that unified the crowd was the March 27 vote in the House for House Bill 135, which would repeal the so-called "Stand your ground" law the Legislature passed just last year. The repeal bill passed 189-184.
State Rep. John Hikel, R-Goffstown, told the crowd of about 300 he has filed a redress-of-grievance complaint against his 189 fellow lawmakers who voted for House Bill 135, charging them with "breach of oath of office" and "conspiracy against rights."
Hikel said it's not a partisan issue. "I want everybody in here to respect the Constitution and respect the people that voted them into office," he said.
Hikel said he also filed his complaint with the U.S. Attorney's Office.
State Rep. Daniel Itse, R-Fremont, urged those in attendance to sign the petitions for redress of grievance against those who voted for the repeal bill, which is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Itse said the measure - which he labeled "Run and Hide" - is unconstitutional. "Therefore, we, the Legislature, have no legitimate power to require you to surrender your right of self-defense."
Organizers said the event, which happened to fall on the birthdate of Thomas Jefferson, was not a "gun rally."
But that didn't stop 11-year-old Hunter Cogswell of Concord from bringing an AR-15 and a big white flag with black lettering: "Come and Take It."
The boy said he was there to "stand up for gun rights."
The legislature’s right to free deliberation and debate is protected by Part I, Article 30 of the New Hampshire Constitution, the Speech and Debate Clause. This clause provides: "The freedom of deliberation, speech, and debate, in either house of the legislature, is so essential to the rights of the people, that it cannot be the foundation of any action, complaint, or prosecution, in any other court or place whatsoever." N.H. CONST. pt. I, art. 30.But for the NRA and its puppets, the only rights that matter are gun rights. All rights, even those most basic to democracy, must fall to the grand imperative of more guns, and more protections for gun rights.
Part I, Article 30 has been part of the New Hampshire Constitution since 1784. See Keefe v. Roberts, 116 N.H. 195, 198 (1976). New Hampshire was one of the first States "to preserve the principle that the legislature must be free to both speak and act without fear of criminal or civil liability." Id.
New Hampshire’s Speech and Debate Clause "is the equivalent of the speech or debate clause, article I, section 6 of the United States Constitution." Id. Both the State and federal clauses appear to have emanated from the English Bill of Rights of 1689. See Holmes v. Farmer, 475 A.2d 976, 981 (R.I. 1984). "The English Bill of Rights was established to ensure that the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament." Id. (quotation omitted).
The framers of the Federal Constitution recognized that such a clause was "indispensably necessary" to enable the legislative branch to fulfill its constitutional duties. Id. (quotation omitted). The privileges secured by the Speech and Debate Clause are intended not to protect legislators "against prosecutions for their own benefit, but to support the rights of the people, by enabling their representatives to execute the functions of their office, without fear of prosecutions, civil or criminal." Coffin v. Coffin, 4 Mass. 1, 27 (1808) (interpreting Massachusetts’ Speech and Debate clause, which is nearly identical to New Hampshire’s).
"In the American governmental structure the clause serves the . . . function of reinforcing the separation of powers so deliberately established by the Founders." United States v. Johnson, 383 U.S. 169, 178 (1966). "[T]he central role of the . . . Clause [is] to prevent intimidation of legislators by the Executive and accountability before a possibly hostile judiciary." Gravel v. United States, 408 U.S. 606, 617 (1972). The clause "was designed neither to assure fair trials nor to avoid coercion. Rather, its purpose was to preserve the constitutional structure of separate, coequal, and independent branches of government." United States v. Helstoski, 442 U.S. 477, 491 (1979). "The English and American history of the privilege suggests that any lesser standard would risk intrusion by the Executive and the Judiciary into the sphere of protected legislative activities." Id. The clause "protect[s] the integrity of the legislative process by insuring the independence of individual legislators." Id. at 493 (quotation omitted). It assures that the legislature, as a co-equal branch of government, will have "wide freedom of speech, debate and deliberation without intimidation or threats." Gravel, 408 U.S. at 616. "[T]hat the legislators can carry out their duties without being questioned in any other place allows the free flow of debate among legislators and the maximization of an effective and open exchange of ideas." Holmes, 475 A.2d at 982 (quotation omitted).
After all, who needs a free discussion and a free vote when Second Amendment remedies are at hand?