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. 

Infographic: Gun Laws in NH

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. Horrified by incidents such as the Columbine and Sandy Hook school shootings, gun control advocates have pushed for laws that strictly determine who may own firearms, and how they can be used, transported, bought and sold. Meanwhile, gun rights advocates look on such restrictions as dangerous infringements on a constitutional right. 

Both sides of this debate can muster statistics to support their arguments. 

Those in favor of stricter gun control cite:

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

Gun Laws in NH

New Hampshire gun laws are comparable to those in most other states, with an Open Society Foundation study ranking the state 28th in a state-by-state assessment of the degree to which gun ownership is regulated.

NH Gun Rights: 

  • 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 openly, unless in a location where guns are specifically restricted. 
  • Law enforcement officials must issue a license to carry a concealed, loaded handgun to anyone who applies, unless that person is a felon or otherwise restricted from possessing a gun in the first place. 
  • 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. 

NH Gun 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 NH 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, there is no law in NH requiring the state to release the names of mental health patients to the federal database used to conduct background checks. 
  • 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.
  • It is illegal to carry a concealed and loaded handgun in New Hampshire without a license.
  • When in a vehicle, guns must be kept in a trunk or locked compartment unless you possess a concealed carry license. 
  • You can't bring a firearm into a NH 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 NH 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 numerous 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

Gun rights advocates are pushing to repeal the requirement for gun owners to acquire a license to carry concealed, arguing 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. 

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 4.7 per 100,000, the United States has a much higher homicide rate than other industrialized countries with stricter firearms regulations, such as Japan (0.4), Germany (0.8), France (1.1) and the United Kingdom (1.2).  
  • 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 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.  



In Committee

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; repeals the requirement to obtain a license to carry a concealed firearm; and requires the State Police to negotiate with other states to recognize concealed carry permits from New Hampshire

In Committee

Increases the length of time for which a license to carry a concealed pistol or revolver is valid, and repeals the requirement to obtain a license to carry a concealed pistol or revolver

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

Creating 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

Creating 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

Establishing 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

Allowing towns to adopt a policy for local police to collect unwanted firearms

Killed in the House

Making 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

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

Killed in the House

Ensuring 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

Repealing the license to carry a concealed firearm

Killed in the House

Removing the prohibition on convicted felons possession certain weapons for self-defense

Interim Study

Allowing residents to carry a concealed firearm without a license

Should NH pass stricter gun control laws?


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1 comment(s)
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Alexandra Romanov
- Derry

Tue, 01/01/2013 - 8:14pm

With the horrible tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary comes another push for one group of citizens to hurry up and “do something”. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the emotional pleas, unproven claims, and outright falsehoods being screamed at lightning speed over the Internet but shouldn’t we really take a moment to reflect on the truth of the tragedies and the myriad of gun laws currently on the books before we rush to fix the wrong problem?

I appreciate that virtually no one wants to ever see a repeat of Sandy Hook, Columbine, or Virginia Tech. I think most of us can agree that the death of innocents is never a good thing. Now I ask those of you demanding that the law abiding be disarmed, or registered, or further inventoried the following questions:  did you demand the same of law enforcement after Kent State or did you excuse that as an exceptionally bad choice made by an individual who happened to be a member of a heavily armed group? If you choose to see one law enforcement officer as an individual and refuse to hold the group of mostly law abiding law enforcement officers accountable, why do you treat civilians differently? Are you equally upset and torn up over the death of over 500 this year in Chicago alone? What exactly are you demanding be done about that? Are you aware that your government admits to having killed 775 Pakistani civilians, including 168 children, in drone attacks? Are you equally torn up over the deaths of those children even though you were not treated to a media play by play of each and every tiny casket? Are you also demanding that your government immediately disarm itself, or limit its weapon choice? If not, ask yourself why you only care about one group of dead innocents.

I ask these questions because if you aren’t equally appalled by all of these events, then it is not the death of innocents that bothers you and you need to be very honest about that. Are you looking for a law that takes away all of your worries that bad things might happen to you and yours? There is no such law. Bad things happen to good people every day.  Every day somebody’s child dies in a way that in hindsight appears absolutely avoidable. That doesn’t make those deaths ok, but “doing something” if it is the wrong something, doesn’t stop them either.

Now, if you are equally appalled by each and every unnecessary death and you wish to ban all guns, some more guns, or some different people from having guns as your solution to some, most, or all of these deaths I ask you this: Are you well versed in the current laws in your town? Are you well versed in the gun laws on the books at the time and location of each of the above mentioned tragedies? If so, then you are clearly well aware that each of those killers broke multiple laws: gun laws, homicide laws, federal laws, local laws. What “one more law” do you think is suddenly going to stop a criminal who does not care about the current laws? Do you think there is actually any law that can eliminate the technology of gunpowder? How exactly is this path of "solution" actually going to stop the death of innocents?

It’s been proven, repeatedly, in cities like Chicago, Detroit, New York, and DC that strict gun laws do not create crime free zones. Gun control is clearly not the answer to preventing these types of tragedies. If we want to stop the killings, then we need to be honest with ourselves about our real goals and then spend the time to look harder and more thoroughly at those who choose to kill instead of their weapons.

BrianDunn's picture
Brian Dunn
- Henniker

Sun, 04/13/2014 - 10:34pm

Absolutely not.

I grew up in Connecticut. I have worked in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts all in the last 5 years. I live in New Hampshire for a reason. "Live Free or Die". Though government is involved in some aspects of my daily life, compared to every other state I listed government interference here is very limited or appears more out of site. Because of this, lifestyle is more calm and relaxed.


I am not a gun owner. New Hampshire is an open carry and must issue gun license state. Crime in this state is also extremely low comparatively to most states. I do not think this is a coincidence. The gun laws as they exist are just fine and do not infringe on anyone's freedom. A limit or restriction on our current rights to guns is the only infringement on personal freedom.

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!

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.

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. 

- 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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


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Issue Status

Rep. James Spillane has requested a 2016 bill "relative to carrying a pistol or revolver without a license."  

Rep. Katherine Rogers has requested a bevy of gun control bills, from prohibiting firearms in "certain public places" to banning flamethrowers.

The text of those bills are not yet available.


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