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House approves concealed carry bill

State House Bureau

May 11. 2016 11:52PM

CONCORD — Anyone who may legally own a gun under state and federal law would be able to carry a concealed weapon under a bill the House approved 217-132 on Wednesday.

The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee recommended that the House kill Senate Bill 336, but the House overturned the recommendation to kill the bill on a 156-189 vote after several speakers said it is about time people who have a right to have a gun be able to carry it concealed.

Gov. Maggie Hassan has said she will veto the bill as she would a similar bill the Senate approved last week that is on the way to her desk.

Bill supporters said it does not repeal the requirement to have a concealed weapon permit, but sets an appropriate standard requiring local police chiefs or elected officials to issue a permit.

“Someone can go purchase a firearm and can openly carry it today,” said Rep. J.R. Hoell, R-Dunbarton, “but they have to get a license so they can put on their winter coat.”

He said people are denied concealed carry permits for many reasons, often political retribution, and fighting that in court costs thousands of dollars.

“When is this going to stop?” Hoell asked.

But bill opponents said the current system has worked fine for decades.

“This is a solution to a problem that does not exist,” said Rep. David Welch, R-Kingston. “This would handcuff those who issue concealed carry licenses.”

He said requiring that a person meet federal requirements to own a gun means more permits will be denied than they are now.

Currently, local police chiefs and other law enforcement personnel may issue concealed carry permits to “suitable” people allowed to have guns under federal and state law.

But bill supporters said the phrase “suitable person” has been used to deny permits to people who have a legal right to own a gun. The bill removes that phrase from the statute.

The House approved an amendment to give police chiefs or other law enforcement officials immunity if they follow the law, issue a concealed weapons permit and something happens later to cause them to be sued.

Under the law the chief would have to issue a permit, Rep. John Tholl, R-Whitefield said, although he does not believe the person should have a gun.

Law enforcement opposed the bill, which has to go back to the Senate.

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