Gun Laws

LFDA Editor

In Brief: 

  • The degree to which the right to bear arms can be regulated and restricted is hotly debated. 
  • Advocates of stricter gun control point to crime rates and high-profile mass shootings to support their call for greater regulation of how firearms are owned, transported, used and sold. 
  • Gun rights advocates are suspicious of increased regulation, which they see as a dangerous infringement of their constitutional right. 
  • Gun laws in NH are comparable to those in the majority of other U.S. states. 
  • Research regarding whether stricter gun control increases or decreases rates of homicide, suicide and other violent crime is unclear, with both sides of the debate citing studies that support their position. 

Detailed Summary

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is generally interpreted to give citizens the right to personally own firearms, but the degree to which that right can be regulated and restricted remains a topic of fierce debate.  

Those in favor of stricter gun control cite:

On the other hand, advocates of looser gun regulations point out that:

Gun Laws in NH

In New Hampshire, gun owners have the following rights and privileges: 

  • An amendment to the NH State Constitution passed in 1982 specifies that "all persons have the right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves, their families, their property and the state."
  • Anyone who can legally possess a firearm can carry it both openly or concealed, unless in a location where guns are specifically restricted. 
  • You do not need a license to purchase a firearm in New Hampshire. 
  • Firearms do not need to be registered. 
  • There is no waiting period before finalizing a firearm purchase. 
  • There is no minimum age for possessing a firearm. However, only a parent, grandparent or legal guardian can transfer a gun to someone under 18. 

In New Hampshire, guns are subject to the following restrictions:  

  • In accordance with federal law, licensed firearm dealers must conduct a background check on anyone who purchases a gun. For handgun sales, these checks are conducted by the New Hampshire Department of Safety. Long gun sale background checks are conducted by the FBI. Both checks are conducted instantly without a waiting period.  
  • Federal law prohibits the possession of a firearm by anyone who "has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution." However,  New Hampshire keeps mental health records confidential and does not therefore provide them to the national database used to perform background checks. 
  • It is illegal to possess a firearm in New Hampshire if you have been convicted of a felony or are currently subject to a protection order.
  • You can't bring a firearm into a New Hampshire court, and public school students can't carry firearms on school grounds. Additional regulations limit the possession of firearms in licensed child care facilities, foster homes, and prison grounds. 
  • Firearms dealers in New Hampshire must obtain a local license if they intend to sell handguns. 
  • Those purchasing firearms must show ID, and nonresidents can't buy firearms in New Hampshire unless they are eligible to purchase them in their home state. 
  • It is illegal to transfer ammunition or a handgun to a minor, although there are exceptions. For example, parents and grandparents may legally give a handgun to a minor relative.
  • An individual may be charged with "negligent storage of firearms" if a child gains access to that individual's firearm and uses the firearm in "a reckless or threatening manner." 
  • It is illegal to use Teflon-coated or armor-piercing ammunition in the course of committing a crime.
  • You cannot discharge a firearm within 300 feet of a permanently occupied dwelling without the landowner's permission.

Areas of Contention

Concealed Carry Licensing

On February 22, 2017 Gov. Chris Sununu signed a law that allows anyone not otherwise prohibited by law to carry a concealed firearm to do so without a license.  Gun rights advocates argue that people with the right to own a handgun should also have the right to carry it in the manner of their choosing. Those opposed to the change hold that it is important for local law enforcement to know who might be carrying a concealed weapon through a licensing process.

Background Checks

In accordance with federal law, anyone purchasing a gun in NH must pass a background check. However, this regulation does not apply to guns purchased at gun shows from private individuals, defined as those for whom selling firearms does not constitute a primary source of income. This has raised concerns that domestic abusers, the mentally unstable, or others who would  normally fail a background check could acquire firearms though such sales. Others counter that legislation aimed at closing this loophole could be over-broad, and cause innocent activities such as loaning guns or transferring them between family members to become criminal acts. 

Assault Weapons

A federal ban on private ownership of semi-automatic firearms classified as "assault weapons" expired in September, 2004. The use of such weapons in high-profile shooting incidents, such as the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, has made them a particular area of concern for gun control advocates, but gun rights campaigners counter that the federal ban did not result in a reduction in crime rates. Several states have passed laws specifically banning assault weapons, and there have been efforts to renew the ban at the federal level. 

Related Issues:

Stand Your Ground/Castle Doctrine



"For" Position

By LFDA Editor

"NH should pass stricter gun control laws."

  • At 10.54 per 100,000, the United States has a much higher rate of gun-related deaths than other industrialized countries with stricter firearms regulations, such as Japan (0.06), Germany (1.01), Australia (0.93) and the United Kingdom (0.23).  
  • A gun at home is 22 times more likely to be used in the murder of a family member, an unintentional shooting, or a suicide than for purposes of self-defense.
  • The Second Amendment was intended to permit a militia, such as the National Guard, to carry arms, not every citizen. 
  • Universal background check requirements and waiting periods could help deter or prevent some crimes.
  • Stricter gun laws would prevent weapons from getting into the hands of people who would misuse them.  
  • Mass shootings are most often done with legally owned weapons. 

"Against" Position

By LFDA Editor

"NH gun control laws are fine, or should be loosened."

  • In the past two decades the homicide rate in the United States has consistenly decreased, even as firearm ownership has increased. 
  • Criminals do not follow laws, so regulations on firearms only hurt legal gun owners. 
  • Some scholars have argued that gun control laws have no significant impact on violent crime or suicide rates.
  • The Second Amendment protects an individual's right to gun ownership for the purposes of self-defense.  
  • The possibility that the potential victim could possess a gun acts as a deterrent to criminals. 
  • Guns don't kill, people do. Efforts to reduce violence should focus on the causes of criminal activity, not the tools used to perpetrate it.  



Died in Conference Committee

Allows a person to carry a loaded rifle, shotgun, or crossbow in a motor vehicle, OHRV, snowmobile, aircraft, or boat.  The House amended the bill to instead allow possession of a loaded firearm in a mobile home.  The Senate then amended the bill to also allow a loaded firearm "on the exterior of a stationary vehicle" or in the open bed of a pickup truck.

Killed in the House

Requires commercial sales and transfers of firearms to take place through licensed dealers who are required to perform background checks. If the status of either party's eligibility to own or possess a firearm cannot be ascertained in a private sale or transfer, the transaction must be completed through a licensed firearm dealer.

Signed by Governor

Increases the length of time for which a license to carry a concealed firearm is valid, and repeals the requirement to obtain a license to carry a concealed firearm.

Killed in the House

Prohibits possession of a firearm at a polling place during an election.

Killed in the House

Allows a person to carry a loaded pistol or revolver in a car so long as the firearm is not concealed.

Killed in the Senate

Allows a person to carry a loaded rifle or shotgun in a motor vehicle, OHRV, snowmobile, boat, aircraft, or other vehicle, so long as there is not a round in the chamber and the safety is on.

Killed in the House

Removes police officers’ discretion to determine if a person is “suitable” to carry a concealed firearm, and extends the term of the concealed carry license by one year.

Killed in the House

Makes it a felony to provide a firearm to a person prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Killed in the House

Requires the seller, purchaser, and owner of a firearm to be covered by a qualified liability insurance policy.

Killed in the House

Prohibits the possession of a flamethrower.

Killed in the House

Prohibits all firearm possession at hospitals and doctor offices, polling places, entertainment venues seating more than 5,000, and anywhere liquor is sold.

Killed in the House

Requires the commissioner of the Department of Safety to make an annual report relative to firearm related deaths and injuries.

Killed in the House

Allows a reasonable fee for performing criminal background checks for firearms, and establishes a position of counter clerk in the Department of Safety to conduct state criminal background checks.

Killed in the House

Increases the penalty for theft of a firearm during a burglary.

Vetoed by Governor

Removes the phrase "suitable person" from the law governing concealed carry permits, and instead requires law enforcement to issue a permit so long as the person is not prohibited from owning a firearm by state or federal law.

Tabled in the Senate

Provides that political subdivisions are not liable for injuries resulting from the possession or use of a firearm or knife by a government employee.

Killed in the House

Makes small revisions to the law against felons owning firearms.

Killed in the House

Prohibits a state university, institution, or entity funded by the state of New Hampshire from regulating the sale or possession of firearms.

Killed in the Senate

Permits members of the guard to carry concealed weapons at National Guard facilities.

Killed in the House

Establishes a commission to study if current force protection measures provide adequate safeguards for New Hampshire national guard personnel, facilities, and equipment.

Vetoed by Governor

Inserts specific penalty provisions for a law enforcement officer who confiscates a firearm during a state of emergency.

Vetoed by Governor

Increases the length of time for which a license to carry a concealed firearm is valid, and repeals the requirement to obtain a license to carry a concealed firearm.

Vetoed by Governor

Increases the length of time for which a license to carry a concealed firearm is valid, and repeals the requirement to obtain a license to carry a concealed firearm.

Killed in the House

Requires background checks for all firearms sales, including sales at gun shows. This bill includes an exemption for private sales between individuals, provided that both parties in the transaction are legally allowed to own firearms. If the status of either party’s eligibility to possess a firearm cannot be ascertained, the bill still requires a background check through a licensed firearm dealer, who can in turn charge a fee for the background check.

Killed in the House

Prohibits a state agency, state employee, or political subdivision from enforcing any federal law regarding a firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition.

Killed in the House

Creates a committee to study the relationship between New Hampshire's gun laws and the low crime rate. This bill was originally written to require background checks for all firearms sales.

Tabled in the House

Creates a committee to study expanded background checks for firearms sales. This bill was originally written to allow nonresidents to carry loaded firearms in New Hampshire, provided that their home state allows them to carry firearms.

Killed in the House

Establishes a commission to study the relationship between mental health and firearms. This bill was originally written to require New Hampshire to report persons adjudicated not mentally competent to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Killed in the House

Allows towns to adopt a policy for local police to collect unwanted firearms.

Killed in the House

Makes it a felony offense to enforce federal firearms restrictions, if the firearm in question is manufactured and/or owned in New Hampshire.

Killed in the House

Shifts the burden of proof from the defendant to the state whenever the state prosecutes a person under gun control laws.

Killed in the House

Ensures that firearms records (e.g. application to carry a concealed firearm) are not subject to disclosure under the Right-to-Know law.

Killed in the House

Increases the length of time for which a license to carry a concealed firearm is valid, and repeals the requirement to obtain a license to carry a concealed firearm.

Killed in the House

Removes the prohibition on convicted felons possessing certain weapons for self-defense.

Interim Study

Repeals the requirement to obtain a license to carry a concealed firearm.

Should NH pass stricter gun control laws?


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Bailey Edgington
- Laughlin

Sat, 06/10/2017 - 12:51am

I personally believe that restricting guns will only make things worse. If you are a criminal and you wish to obtain a firearm, a law will not prevent you from doing anything. If you wish to use a firearm for extremely illegal actions then what is to prevent you from performing more illegal actions to get this gun? No mass shooter ever said "Aw darn, I'm not allowed to own that gun, guess I'll go find something else to use". With that there is the point that if someone has the intent to do harm, they will use anything they have: not just a gun. Another point is by restricting guns you are taking away people's safety. People deserve the right to have a shotgun in their house if they wish to in order to protect their family. And another threat to safety is a lack of self-protection in public. You never hear of a bank robbery in Texas because the robber is smart enough not to barge into a room full of people most likely armed. But whats to stop them from robbing a bank in California? A couple cameras? My last point is politics. You always hear "thousands die from guns in the U.S. every year". The actual number is just over 33,000, and sometimes you will hear a politician say that number, but they neglect to acknowledge the fact that only 1/3 of them are murders. The rest are inevitable suicides and the common accident. More than 80,000 people even survive encounters with a gun. With that I leave it up to you to decide your own opinion on gun control, thank you for reading.

Lenny Manken
- Bedford

Sat, 10/08/2016 - 12:49am

Registration is the first step to government confiscation of our firearms. I solidly agree with the people posting in this thread. In Texas college student can conceal and carry. I don' t think this goes far enough,, first graders should be able to carry firearms to school, I see nothing in the second amendment which forbids this, We license drivers, register cars. do background checks on plumbers and nurses before they can be licensed but it is our God given right for any insane, mentally defective psychopath to own a semiautomatic rifle with cop killer bullets. You guys are nuts.. Crawl back into your crazy hole

Steve Biron
- Franklin

Sun, 01/20/2013 - 12:11pm

Simple as this: No. We don't need to change gun rights, that isn't the problem. The problem is gun owners not locking up their guns correctly.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was tragic, but why go after Assault Rifles? He had two pistols with him. If would have used those if he had no AR-15, and if there were no guns, he would of went in there with a knife and started killing, and if not a knife, a bomb to blow up the school with.

Quick Quiz; Does anyone one know what happened in China the same day? If you do, then you know as well. If you don't, then you are as blind as others. In China, same day, a man went on a 22 person stabbing spree, yet the shooting took precedence over it, and made it look like it never happened. So, if knife and homemade chemicals and make bombs, why not got after them too?

Better yet, let's ban cancer! If we ban cancer, no one will get it anymore and no one will ever be able to die from it! Oh wait, that won't stop cancer. Much like banning guns and taking away our rights will stop criminals from getting guns illegally and committing crimes.

Look at Canada. They have high gun restrictions, and ever since they put them in place, beatings and stabbings have skyrocketed. Also as a little "heads up," since the minor ban of guns during Clinton's years, beating and stabbing deaths are eight times more than shooting deaths.

So, will banning guns really help, or will it cause more problems? It will cause a lot more problems then helping people.

richardc132's picture
Richard Clogston
- Warren

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 11:50am

It's way past time for some reason on the issue of gun control.  We have to stop this cycle of knee-jerk reactions to every gun-related disaster, and dominance by whoever can djin up the most emotional damage at the moment.

First of all, although I've never owned a weapon of my own, I fully support the average American citizen's right to own one. Most everyone I know has at least one gun, and keeps and uses them responsibly.  I know many people who hunt, and some people whose family might go hungry at time if they didn't.

Also, if you take the Second Amendment in the context in which it was written, I also agree with it in that people should be able to arm themselves against the possibility of the government becoming too oppressive.  And to everyone who thinks the very idea of standing up to the government is ridiculous, go talk to someone from Syria.

On the other hand, when some nutjob walks into our local elementary school with an AR15, I frankly don't give a damn about your rights.  I'm cool with you having a gun, but how do we keep one out of that guy's hands?  That's the real issue.

Ananta Gopalan
- Hampton

Fri, 03/01/2013 - 11:52am

Second Amendment is there not for hunting deer or target shooting.  It is there to make citizens as effective in terms of arms as the soldiers in the government.  In those days, if you had owned a musket with a bayonet you would have been as well armed as a soldier in the British government, except of course the early cannons. 

Second Amendment can not be abridged by rule making in the Congress because those rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are endowed by the creator and not another man or group of men.  The only way it can be changed is through a Constitutional amendment.  Everything else is illegal, according to our constitution.

Ability for the citizens to arm themselves is an inherent vigilance required to protect their freedoms.

You speak of how we can avoid having nut jobs getting hold of guns.  First, most if not all the recent carnage with guns were by known insane persons.  The Virginia Tech. shooter, the Gifford shooter, the Colorado movie theater shooter and the Newtown shooter all had left very clear signals of mental illness including those involved in treating them.  The mother of Newtown shooter could not get help in CT. due to privacy laws.  People that had known those shooters, both friends and relatives had been forced into helplessness by laws and regulations preventing them to take action well before the catastrophic events.We have to make changes to those laws that keep potential mass murderers insulated.  As a matter of fact, the drug addict who worked in the Exeter Hospital and who caused all those Hep-c cases was also protected by the same laws of privacy that precluded the employer from accessing information from his past employment that would have resulted in him not getting that job.  The laws in our country have become topsy-turvy. They assume law-abiding citizens criminals while letting the criminals go free.

Bob WIlber
- Canterbury

Fri, 03/08/2013 - 11:52am

I certainly think we should try to keep guns out of the hands of mentally unstable teenagers, who have been the perpetrators of most of these heavily publicized school shoot ups.  But we must keep in mind that that the 2nd Amendment is there because an armed citizenry serves as a bulwark against tyrannical government.  The dozens murdered in the school massacres must be weighed against the millions murdered by their own governments during the 20th century because they had no means to defend themselves from government thugs.  New Hampshire has, I believe, the laxest gun laws in the northeast.  Yet we have less violence per capita than states with strong gun control laws like New York.  So I don't see New Hampshire's gun laws as a problem that needs fixing.

- Manchester

Thu, 03/06/2014 - 11:38am

There should be checks and balances firearm ownership not "gun control" the more people see fire arms the more comfortable they will become with them. while the (MSM) keeps saying how bad guns are they report nothing about how firearms help or deter crime. given today's crimes (home invasion, car jacking, rape, muggings, strong arm robberies... etc you get the point. there are many articles out there that report responsible firearm actions that have stopped or curtailed a criminals action.

these checks and balances could include

firearm education (will curb the intimation factor)

1. mental health. related to drugs given by medical community 

 2. Mental Health Skills (related to anger) should be taught at home and in school (problem solving skill and debate tactics) for reasonable conclusion to arguing 
 3. Problems Solving Skills should be taught from day one in school. (not told to them) taught to them.


jiml54's picture
Jim Lee
- Portsmouth

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 12:31am

I believe if you are legally entitled to own a firearm then you should also have the concurrent right to carry that firearm. 

Here's a link to a well written article from a law professor about Second Amendment rights that likely attach to the right to own a gun. 

grantb's picture
Grant Bosse
- Manchester

Mon, 04/22/2013 - 12:00am

Contrary to what you may have heard from CNN, the president, or other unreliable sources, this is how the U.S. Senate is supposed to work. Senators debated legislation, considered competing amendments and voted. The process isn’t broken just because you didn’t like the result.

That hasn’t stopped gun control advocates from declaring the end of republican democracy after the Senate failed to pass the latest attempt to whittle away a few more slivers from the Second Amendment.

The Manchin-Toomey amendment at the center of last week’s gun control debate was so watered-down that it contained few of the stringent restriction that gun control groups wanted and almost none of the overdue reforms that gun owners were looking for. It was rather weak tea to generate such passion from both sides of the gun debate.

It wasn’t a great week for the National Rifle Association, which opposed even bringing the bill to the Senate floor. This was a huge tactical error, which would have given President Obama and gun control groups a political and fundraising advantage. Opening up the issue to debate, and alternative amendments exposed gun control’s weak foundations.

An amendment to renew the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban failed this week 40-60, with New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen among those voting to bring back a law that didn’t work the first time. Riding a wave of emotion, a full court press from the White House, and a Democratic majority, the Senate got just 40 votes for the centerpiece of the gun control agenda.

It was an even worse week for the professional outsiders. These political parasites survive by stoking conservative disenchantment within the Republican Party. A wanna-be from Colorado named Dudley Brown attacked senators like New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte for voting to bring the bill to the floor. My friends in Colorado already knew him to be ill-informed and counterproductive. Now we all do.

But no one suffered more from the Senate vote than Obama, as demonstrated by his petulant Rose Garden speech. Obama whined about the NRA supposedly lying about Manchin-Toomey, though he’s been using glaringly false statistics throughout his push for greater gun control. He called the Senate votes shameful, while shamelessly using parents of children killed at Sandy Hook. But this bill would have no more prevented another Newtown than it would have stopped the Boston Marathon bombing or the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.

Obama and other gun control advocates are furious. They assume Second Amendment supporters know restrictive gun laws would save lives, and just don’t care. They start with a premise that limiting gun ownership would reduce crime by preventing criminals and lunatics from getting their hands on deadly weapons.

But their premise is wrong. Gun control doesn’t keep criminals from getting guns, it doesn’t reduce crime  and it doesn’t save lives.

This week’s gun debate was all for show. The president’s best-case scenario was getting a watered-down gun control bill through the Senate, given him the chance to attack House Republicans when they put it in a drawer. His fallback was attacking the Senate GOP for filibustering gun control.

Instead, we got a national debate on gun control, and gun control lost. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid required 60 votes for any amendment to pass. Otherwise, the Senate could have passed Manchin-Toomey, along with popular Republican alternatives to protect gun-owners traveling in anti-gun states, to enforce federal laws already on the books, and to begin reforming a mental health system that’s been broken since the Carter Administration.

The last thing the president wanted was for an actual bipartisan compromise, with Republican and Democratic amendments adopted on the Senate floor. How could he raise money off that?

Grant Bosse is editor of New Hampshire Watchdog, an independent news site dedicated to New Hampshire public policy. The organization is not affiliated with the Live Free or Die Alliance.

Dr. Knight
- Salem

Tue, 09/18/2012 - 11:19pm

"Constitutional Carry" is an issue that probably does not affect too many of our citizens but unfortunately I am one on them.  I had held a concealed carry pistol permit in Massachusetts since I was 18 years old (and an armed security officer) and also retained it when I moved o NH about 15 years ago.  At age 56 I have never had any violation greater than a speeding ticket.  I also served my country as an elite US Army Airborne Ranger and was given an honorable discharge so I would say that I have far more training in the tactical use of firearms than most any police official


A couple of years ago I lent my motor vehicle to an acquaintance who asked to drive to the Salem town hall which is abut 3 miles from my home.  He indicated that he wanted to register a motor vehicle. Unfortunately, he also crossed into Lawrence to purchase some diabetic needles which can be done over the counter in that state.  Apparently someone in the store saw him opening the needles in the auto and thought that there might be drug usage gong on so they called th police.


There were no drugs found but the police decided to search the ca anyway and that found 2 antique rifles which don't work anyway and 2 handguns which I keep in a knapsack which is legal in NH.  Well the guns were confiscated because this fellow does not have a permit (though he s eligible to get one) and my oversight in not removing them from the car was reported to the Salem police.  I never loan people my vehicle and had forgotten that the pistols ere there much like someone might forget that they have a car manual n the glove box

Anyway, the chief ( a known anti-gin zealot) actually sent a uniformed officer to my home to confiscate my permit 


I appealed the ruling in court and should have prevailed.  The NH general law states that"Anyone who has not been convicted of a felony or does not have an active restraining pending SHALL be issued a permit to carry"


Unfortunately, this particular judge did not know the ruling and filed to research the matter prior to issuing he judgement.


So, I am actually one those people tat would benefit from the law which states that "anyone who is eligible to purchase a firearm also has the right to carry it concealed


THE IRONY is that a firearm owner may already carry a pistol in public as long as it is visible so the only think that the new law will add is that the pistol owner may plaec the weapon in his pocket or under his belt, thus causing less alarm to the public!


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Issue Status

On February 22 Gov. Chris Sununu signed SB 12, which repeals the license requirement to carry a concealed firearm.  


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