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Concealed Gun Bill Passes

Thursday, April 30, 2015
Concord — The House handily approved a bill Wednesday making it easier for people who can legally own a gun to carry that loaded firearm concealed without a license.

But Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan announced shortly before the vote that she intends to veto the bill, saying New Hampshire’s “current concealed carry permitting law has worked well for nearly a century.”

The so-called “constitutional carry” bill passed the Republican-controlled House by a vote of 212-150. The legislation has already passed the Republican-controlled Senate. A veto override requires a two-thirds majority vote. 

New Hampshire is an open-carry state, meaning anyone who legally owns a gun can carry it in the open without any license or permit.

Federal law prohibits felons, people under domestic violence restraining orders, fugitives and drug addicts, among others, from purchasing guns.

Under current state law, gun owners need to get a license to carry a concealed, loaded gun, hidden in a purse or beneath a coat. It is up to local police departments and, in some cases, selectmen to determine whether state residents who fill out a one-page application form are “suitable” to get a license. Rejected applicants can appeal the decision in court.

The constitutional carry bill, supported by three Republican lawmakers, would repeal the license requirement.

House members amended the bill slightly, clarifying that those barred from owning a gun under both state and federal law would not be able to carry concealed guns.

The legislation is supported by hunters and gun activists alike, but opposed by members of law enforcement.

Rep. John Burt, a Goffstown, N.H., Republican, said the bill corrects current issues in the license system and gives a clearer requirement for who can carry a concealed gun.

“All this does is allow people who can carry openly to wear a coat,” he said.

A handful of states, including Vermont, Alaska, Arizona and Wyoming, allow concealed carry without a license, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Democrats said the change in the licensing process could lead to everyday disagreements escalating and argued the notion that more guns will make everyone safer is an outdated one.

“The threat of mutual destruction is no way to live our lives,” said Rep. Geoffrey Hirsch, D-Bradford.

Hassan said in a statement the existing state “permitting system gives an important oversight role to local law enforcement,” adding it helps ensure that “potentially dangerous individuals are not allowed to carry hidden weapons.”

Ahead of the vote Wednesday, Hassan received a letter from the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police asking her to veto the bill.

The legislation also outlines new license guidelines for residents who want to carry a loaded concealed gun in about two dozen other states that recognize New Hampshire’s statute. The bill would extend the license renewal time from four years to five.

Voting among Upper Valley lawmakers was largely along party lines, though Democratic state Reps. Wendy Piper, of Enfield, and Larry Converse, of Claremont, voted for the measure, and Republican David Kidder, of New London, voted against it.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a prime sponsor of the bill, praised its passage in the House.

“This modest bill merely allows somebody who has the right already to openly carry a weapon to do so on a concealed basis without securing a license,” he said in a statement, and signaled the Senate would support House changes in the bill. “I hope the governor will embrace this right of New Hampshire citizens to protect their lives, liberties, and loved ones.”

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