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Senate approves 'constitutional carry'

State House Bureau

April 21. 2016 9:03PM

CONCORD — Voting along party lines, the Senate Thursday repealed the requirement to obtain a concealed weapons permit, although the governor says she will veto the bill as she did last year.

House Bill 582 would allow anyone who can legally own a gun to conceal a loaded weapon.

Under current law, a person may carry a loaded weapon that is visible, but a permit is required to carry it concealed.

Supporters say local law enforcement officials have used the process to delay or even block someone with a legal right to own a gun from receiving the permit.

“This is our opportunity to ensure the 2nd Amendment rights of our constituents are upheld,” said Sen. Gary Daniels, R-Milford.

But opponents said the current system has worked well for nearly 100 years, and asked what would be accomplished by changing it.

“We should change when change is required,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, “not just for the act of changing.”

This is the second time in this two-year term the Senate has voted to approve the change. Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed a nearly identical bill last year that lawmakers failed to override.

“Governor Hassan does not believe we need to change New Hampshire’s current concealed carry permitting law — which Republican Mel Thomson called a ‘sensible handgun law’ and has worked well for nearly a century, safeguarding the Second Amendment rights of our citizens while helping to keep the Granite State one of the safest states in the nation,” said Hassan’s communications director, William Hinkle.

Several supporters of the bill noted Vermont has never required a concealed weapons permit and that Maine has recently repealed its requirement and both states are as safe as New Hampshire.

Why should people have to keep fighting for their constitutional rights, asked Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford. He said someone could make an honest mistake like putting on a coat that covers a pistol and then go out into public where he could be guilty of a crime.

“There is ample evidence we should pass this bill,” Sanborn said.

But others called the change a significant departure from what the state has done, which is to allow local law enforcement to vet those who seek a concealed weapon permit.

“This is a radical, dangerous break from tradition that does not make sense,” said Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn, D-Dalton. “This is a solution in search of a problem.”

The Senate voted 14-10 to approve the bill which now goes to Finance for review before the Senate takes a final vote.

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