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

 

PROS & CONS

"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.  

 

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Killed in the House

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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?

FOR
REPRESENTATIVES

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UNDECIDED
REPRESENTATIVES

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AGAINST
REPRESENTATIVES

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Comments

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.

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.

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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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